The Space Theatre, Isle of Dogs
Euripides' play Medea must have scared the hell out of the possibly all-male audiences who first saw it. Here was a woman, a “foreigner”, supposedly entirely subject to a man’s wishes, reacting to injustice by destroying everything the man cares about and walking free.
The story is central to Wet Paint’s playful Fall Prettier, a sort of Medea Revue mixing together song, dance, contemporary references to the British Royal Family and a satirical entertainment within the show called “Wicked Women”.
The horror has already taken place as the performance begins and we are immediately reminded of it by a very catchy a cappella song, the rhythms of which like invisible strings force Medea to dance like a puppet on the stage.
Our host and the compère of “Wicked Women” (Laura Schuller) leads us through the evening with the performer Helga Ragnars at various times walking in front of the audience with a board bearing the word “Applause”.
Sitting on exercise balls, Glauce (Therese Ramstedt), the woman Jason has decided for political advantage should replace Medea, and Medea herself (Zandile Darko) give their account of their situation. Both are depicted sympathetically in a context of injustice pushing them towards the decisions they made.
Medea says she decided to kill her children in her own way rather than having them murdered by others. Glauce explains her complicity with Jason’s cruelty by a personal history in which she was repeatedly told that men can never be questioned, that they will always have their way, even if that requires violence.
Jason’s attitude is illustrated comically, by his squeezing ketchup onto female dolls and later onto the head of Glauce who falls from her exercise ball as if dead .
“No”, not like that, says the compère, “fall prettier.” Women should look good even as they die.
This entertaining riff on the Medea story can feel a bit fragmentary and its comedic emphasis does soften the sense of injustice. But in just under sixty minutes, we hear some very fine a cappella singing, occasionally laugh at the way women are treated and are reminded of how even in the most difficult circumstances people can resist.
Reviewer: Keith Mckenna