MEDEA
Queen's Theatre, London W1
Opened 30 January, 2001

Fiona Shaw is always riveting to watch on stage, but the rest of Deborah Warner's production is patchy to say the least.

Shaw invests her character with humanity, even at times likeability no mean feat, given that Medea is the queen who, having sacrificed everything to return to Greece with Jason only to find herself dumped in favour of a dynastically convenient alliance, sets about murdering his new wife and her two young sons. The actress's native intelligence and quirkiness are used to great effect, as Medea deprecates both Jason's specious arguments and her own feelings. But little of the rest of this Abbey Theatre, Dublin production hangs together.

The glass walls and doors of Tom Pye's half-built modern palace set come in handy during the climactic murders, but mostly it just looks like an unfinished platform on the Jubilee Line extension, with a gratuitous pool in the middle. Jonathan Cake, as Jason, always takes direction extremely well, but I have never seen him give a remotely sparky stage performance, and even Shaw falters during what should be their gripping final confrontation. Moreover, too often many of the actors (Shaw excepted) muffle or gabble their lines. A novelty to see Euripides in the West End, but in the end Warner's ideas simply don't pay off.

Written for divento.com

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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