Review: ‘Black Medea’

A short, sharp hour, Wesley Enoch's bold adaptation of Euripides' classic play, "Black Medea," is dangerous, energetic and pulsing with life, and death.

A short, sharp hour, Wesley Enoch’s bold adaptation of Euripides’ classic play, “Black Medea,” is dangerous, energetic and pulsing with life, and death.

Medea is a passionate young Koori woman living with her tribe in the Outback when she becomes besotted with a Koori man making a name for himself in the city. Jason wears a tie and a finely cut suit and has ambitions beyond those of the other men Medea has encountered.

Her family is displeased when they get together, but after Medea becomes pregnant with his child they agree to embrace him. When the pair leaves the desert to begin a new life in the city their troubles begin.

Jason becomes a violent drinker, unable to break the curse inherited from his father. Medea clings to memories of their early passion as long as she can and attempts to ignore the chorus’s pleas to return to her folk.

When Jason prevents her furtive bid to leave with their son, her solution to breaking the cycle of inherited violence is to stab the boy and take off alone. The desert claims her, Jason is destroyed by grief and Justine Saunders, representing the chorus, looks on and shakes her head.

Enoch is a Koori who has spent most of his career exploring black themes. But in “Black Medea,” first staged by The Sydney Theatre Co.’s experimental Blueprints program in 2000, he eschews the naturalism of his previous works and embraces the poetry of Euripides’ classic.

The handsome cast, exquisite set, back-dropped with towering arcs of perforated corrugated iron and evocative lighting, ensure this is one of the best looking productions to play Sydney this year.

The performances jell nicely and 12-year-old Clive Cavanagh as the boy trapped in the cycle of violence displays great calm moving amid the madness on stage. Enoch’s snappy pace and creative storytelling are a reward for auds too often subjected to overlong and indulgent theater.

Black Medea

Belvoir Street Theater, Sydney; 320 Seats; A$45 ($35) Top

Production

A Company B presentation of the Malthouse Theater production of a play in one act by Wesley Enoch after Euripides. Directed by Enoch.

Creative

Set, Christina Smith; lighting, Rachel Burke; sound, Jethro Woodward; production stage manager, Tiffany Noack. Opened April 13, 2005. Reviewed April 20. Running time: 55 MIN.

Cast

Medea - Margaret Harvey Jason - Aaron Pedersen Chorus - Justine Saunders Boy - Clive Cavanagh/Kyole Dungay
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