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Following official government advice theatres are currently closed to help slow the spread of coronavirus. For more information on cancelled performances click here.


First Published 22 July 2014, Last Updated 22 July 2014

What’s it all about?

Let’s start with a warning: Ben Power’s adaptation of the classic Greek tragedy is the darkest night you’ll likely ever spend in the National Theatre. But it might also just prove the most electrifying.

Medea has sacrificed all for the love of her husband Jason. But when she discovers he is to marry another she embarks on a gruesome spree of revenge, shutting down her motherly instincts to break Jason’s heart in the most violent and horrific way possible. I told you it was dark.

Who’s in it?

Helen McCrory is outstanding in the title role of Carrie Cracknell’s horror film-inspired production. Appearing to us first wild and savage, she is a rollercoaster of insanity. Unpredictable and animalistic, grotesquely twisted yet often on the brink of wide-eyed, heartbroken hysteria, for her slight appearance McCrory is an overwhelming presence.

Danny Sapani’s Jason, for all his confidence and stature, is no competition for her dark, magical tyranny, while Michaela Coel mirrors perfectly the audience’s increasing sense of fear and unease with a powerful performance as the show’s narrator.

What should I look out for?

Within Cracknell’s pacey 90 minute production is a whole world of detail and theatrical brilliance. Film fans won’t fail to miss the nods to iconic screen images, from the scenic parallels of Tom Scutt’s intriguing set to Lars von Trier’s equally disturbing Melancholia, to the less subtle references to The Shining as Medea’s identically dressed boys scoot silently across the stage on a tricycle and swing in perfect unison in the wooded backdrop.

This uniformed choreography continues with a chorus of women clad in floral bridesmaid dresses who perform Goldfrapp’s stunning, otherworldly score. As Medea smokes liquorice roll-ups and overflows with rage, this coven remains perfectly in synch as they watch fearfully on. As the tyranny unfolds, they become frenzied; Lucy Guerin’s staccato choreography transforming them into a collective of possessed ballerinas, limbs twitching and faces terrifyingly vacant.

In a nutshell?

Carrie Cracknell’s terrifying Medea is a disturbing but thrilling theatrical experience that will have you revelling in its beauty and revolting in its darkness all at once.

What’s being said on Twitter?

‏@MoiraSinclair1 Medea @NationalTheatre. Trapped and in despair, Helen McCrory’s performance gives dreadful clarity to the drive to commit the worst of acts.

@MrStevieWebb Just about resumed a steady pulse after a spine-tingling and harrowing production of #Medea @NationalTheatre. #DontGoDownToTheWoodsToday

Will I like it?

You might need a strong drink afterwards and one of Medea’s fags to unwind from what is a deeply unsettling experience, but it’s worth the quickening of your heart rate. An exhilarating mass of contradictions, Cracknell’s horrifying production is fitful yet graceful, thrilling yet emotionally draining, grotesque but rousing and, above all, stunning to watch. Even if you have to keep your eyes closed for some of it.

Medea is playing until 4 September as part of the venue’s Travelex season, with more than half the seats for every performance £15. You can book tickets through the National Theatre website.


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We are now cancelling all performances up until and including 31 May 2020 to help us process existing bookings whilst we wait for further clarity from the government in terms of when we will be able to reopen.

We are so sorry that in these testing and difficult times you are not able to enjoy the show you have booked for and hope the following helps clarify next steps in respect of your tickets .

There is nothing that you need to do if your performance has been cancelled, but we do ask for your patience.

If you have booked directly with the theatre or show website for an affected performance, please be assured that they will contact you directly to arrange an exchange for a later date, a credit note/voucher or a refund. If you have booked via a ticket agent they will also be in contact with you directly.

We are processing in strict date order of performance, so you are likely to be contacted after the date you were due to go to the theatre. However, we want to reassure you that you will be contacted, and your order will be processed, but please do bear with us.

We’d like to thank everyone who has been patient and kind in dealing with their ticket providers so far and we are sorry that we cannot process your order as quickly as we would like.

Please do not contact your credit card company as that will slow the process down and put an additional burden on our box office and ticket agent teams.

In order for us to serve our audiences the best we can, please do not get in touch with your point of sale if you have booked for performances after 31 May. Please be reassured that if we have to cancel future performances you will be directly contacted by your theatre or ticket provider. Our producers continue to plan for all eventualities dependent on the individual needs of their shows and we will provide further updates on specific shows as and when they become available.

We look forward to welcoming you back into our theatres as soon as we are allowed to resume performances. In the meantime stay safe and healthy.