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Medea at Trafalgar Studios

First Published 2 October 2015, Last Updated 30 May 2018

What’s it all about?

The final instalment in the Almeida’s impressive Greeks season – you can also see opener Oresteia at the Trafalgar Studios as it has transferred to the West End – Medea is a tale of hideous revenge.

Writer Rachel Cusk’s adaptation of Euripides’ classic shifts the tale to now, doing away with kings and countries, making Medea a writer and Jason – previously the finder of the Golden Fleece – an actor on the brink of a major role. He still leaves her for another, this time a wealthy heiress; her revenge is both the same and very different.

Who’s in it?

Kate Fleetwood is an absolute force as Medea. Were it not for the fact that she so regularly gives the most incredible performances I’d be tempted to describe it as career-defining. She perfectly, harrowingly lays bare the soul of the woman cheated by her husband and fighting for survival in a patriarchal world.

Lectured by a mother with ideas from the 50s, dissected by a chorus of trendy mothers, threatened by a publishing boss, Fleetwood finds the iron strength and brittle fragility, ice cold instincts and motherly warmth, determination and brokenness, of the iconic character and lays it bare for all to see.

What should I look out for?

Listen to Cusk’s muscular script that gives Fleetwood so much to work with. Fleetwood’s emotionally naked performance is enabled by a text that does not flinch from examining every inch of what it is to be a mother, what it is to be a woman, what it is to be betrayed, in unyielding detail and the most visceral of terms.

Keep an eye out for Charlotte Randle’s transformation from coffee morning mummy to a very different and symbolic character – I’m giving nothing away – at the play’s culmination.

In a nutshell?

Kate Fleetwood throws her hat into the awards ring with a coruscating, visceral, haunting and stunning performance in Rachel Cusk’s magnificent modern Medea.

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Will I like it?

Fleetwood gives one of the year’s finest performances as the mother struggling with motherhood, the wife tossed aside, the strong woman in a world scared by and dismissive of such a species. You could see it for her performance alone. But add Cusk’s devastating treat of a script – a work of utter modernity, rigorous intelligence and emotional rawness – a supporting cast going toe to toe with Fleetwood and witty direction from Rupert Goold, and you have a fittingly striking, thought-provoking conclusion to the excellent Greeks season.

A quick note, in case you happen to be a Greek tragedy purist. This is not the Medea you know. Arguably, it’s better – or more interesting – for that.

Will you like it? Do you like drama? Then yes.

Medea plays at the Almeida Theatre until 14 November. You can book tickets through the show’s website.


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