Last week I headed to the cinema for my third NT Live experience. This time I saw an encore screening of Medea, a Greek tragedy, starring Helen McCrory in the title role. Although I didn’t enjoy the play as much as Skylight or A Streetcar Named Desire (my two previous tastes of NT Live), it definitely made for an interesting, thought provoking, evening.
Medea is a Greek Tragedy, written by Euripides, that is believed to have premiered in 431 BCE. In a tragic, melodramatic, heartbreaking, gruesome way; it tells the story of a revengeful mother of two (Medea) dealing with the rejection of a husband who has left her for another woman.
The modern relevance of the plot struck a chord with me. Does humanity simply replay itself over and over again? This is also where the play, as a modern audience member, came unstuck – the plot deals with what’s now a regular, commonplace, occurrence in such a melodramatic way that I found it difficult to take seriously.
This Production of Medea
There is no doubt that Helen McCrory did a fantastic job embodying the turmoil of an unhinged, revengeful, woman. She was supported by a relatively large ensemble, who often spoke with a translucent quality that made me question whether they were meant to be in Medea’s head?
The set was a static house, upstairs, downstairs, inside, outside, formation (part of the downstairs set moved away to reveal a forest). It used the space well, but I got tired of looking at it even though the play is a one act piece lasting only an hour and a half.
The set, costumes and language of the production had a naturally ancient feel to them. Throughout the play modern things would creep in – for instance, Medea’s children were seen to play with handheld games consoles. This was intentional, it held a mirror up to modern society, it made the point that the play is still relevant today. I don’t understand why, but it made me feel quite uncomfortable.
My Verdict on Medea
Once again NT Live has given me the opportunity to see a high-quality production I’d otherwise have avoided. Although I didn’t greatly enjoy it (the plot is really quite depressing), I did find it inherently interesting to see something so old being brought to life today, in front of a modern audience.
My one criticism of the NT Live encore experience – they showed a documentary about the play before showing us the play. It gave away a lot of the plot. As someone who likes to go into a production with a clear, open, mind that will form its own opinion; hearing other’s opinions and analysis of something I’d not yet seen was really, really, annoying!