Review: ★★★★★ Medea Electronica, Ovalhouse

Review: ★★★★★ Medea Electronica, Ovalhouse

The Ancient Greek tragedy Medea first premiered in 431 BC, a chaotic tale of love and vengeance that astonished the 5th-century Greek audiences. Since then the story has been told over and over again, yet in this newest rendition it has been re-imagined by Pecho Mama, a company that seeks to seamlessly blend the boundaries between theatre and live music. It is the company’s first piece of theatre work and a daring and enticing endeavour as they attempt to infuse the ancient tale with an 80’s inspired electronic soundtrack.

The show revolves around Mella Faye (Medea), who is the only actor that appears onstage for the entire duration of the performance. Aside from Alex Stanford and Sam Cox, the two incredibly talented musicians who provide the soundtrack to the production, this play is a one women show. The other characters simply exist as voices (pre-recorded audio) that she interacts with, and it is utterly convincing. These interactions not only reveal Faye’s undeniable talent, but they are truly some of the most compelling moments in the show. By showing only one character it ensures that our focus is always on Medea, her victimisation, and her downfall as she becomes aware of her husband’s betrayal. It ignites a sense of empathy in the audience, for a character who may not deserve it, and Faye is absolutely compelling in conveying her characters transformation- and the destruction that she leaves in her wake.

Music is such an essential part of this production, the electronic drums and keys grounding the play firmly in the 20th century, whilst simultaneously heightening the inner turmoil and psychological breakdown that consumes the character. Stanford and Cox construct eerie and powerful sounds onstage, that not only adds to the rising atmosphere in the room, but that become an extension of Medea’s thoughts spiralling out of control. The songs do not feel out of place in this production at all, and they are beautifully sung. I was not entirely convinced by the spontaneous dancing that happened throughout the show, but it did add to the feeling that Medea was descending to an uncontrollable and dangerous place. The overall design of the set creates an atmosphere that is part theatre and part live gig.The entire set is suspended from the ceiling, an array of light bulbs and chairs becoming a visual metaphor for the chaos that ensues. With only three people onstage, the set and lighting are minimal yet incredibly effective. Not much is needed to suspend our disbelief, as we watch Faye launch into song and tear at her costume through a screen of billowing smoke.

To re-tell such an ancient tale is difficult, how do you capture the same sense of awe, horror and absolute fear in an audience? When you see Romeo and Juliet, you know the ending. But if the production gets it right, for a second you feel a fleeting moment of hope- maybe this time they won’t die? Pecho Mama conjures this same feeling in Medea Electronica. The story has been told countless times, but in the midst of this production, you feel shocked and bewildered by the events that are unfolding. It feels contemporary, and at times completely terrifying- Pecho Mama have created a powerful production that is undeniably electric!


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