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Medea

Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
3 stars
Mike Bartlett’s contemporary version of one of the most unforgiving 
tragedies of all time is a curious beast. On the one hand, this 
suburban English redux taps into tragically familiar stories of 
modern-day infanticide. On the other, there’s a glib gallows humour at 
play which becomes a form of self-protection, as Rachael Stirling 
strides through her red-brick des-res with the mono-maniacal fury of 
the original woman scorned.

Stirling’s Medea is a flame-haired posh girl on a new build estate who 
saved upwardly mobile rough diamond Jason from drowning. Unable to deal 
with Medea’s bolshie ways any longer, Jason has left her for a younger 
and, as Jason admits, “nicer” model, while Medea is left with only her 
traumatised little boy and impending homelessness to deal with.

While no-one would blame Medea for what she does after being treated so 
shabbily, her pair of busy-body gal pals and a a tongue-tied brickie 
looking on imploringly are only likely to make her madder. Especially 
when sound-tracked by a swell of strings so sweeping as to more 
resemble something out of the 39 Steps.

Such imbalances may jar, but they also illustrate just how out of whack 
Medea is in Bartlett’s own production for Headlong in association with 
the Citizens and Watford Palace. Stirling is a force of nature as she 
spars with Adam Levy’s Jason. It’s the other characters who remain 
indifferent. Medea and Jason may tear lust-driven emotional chunks out 
of each other, but there’s a sense that everyone else onstage is too 
disconnected to care in a TV style reworking which only serves to make 
Stirling’s Medea appear more powerful than ever.

The Herald, October 4th 2012

ends


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