Reviewed – 23rd May 2019
“D’Silva as Medea gives us a leading lady trained to fight and win”
Euripides’ classic has been re-imagined by Julia Pascal and her company to tell the story of a female Kurdistan Workers’ Party fighter who flees the contested geography of her birthplace to seek asylum in Britain. Here she meets and falls in love with a young man who has taken the name Jason “because it’s cool”. Jason will later revert to his given name of Mohamed and the demands of his traditional Iraqi family. You can guess what happens next.
It’s worth reviewing the programme notes before the show starts. They contain a lot of helpful information that explains the complicated background that inspired Blueprint Medea. They also explain the link between Greek Medea and Kurdish Medea (the contemporary Kurds are descendants of the Medes whose empire, the Greek historian Herodotus tells us, once stretched all the way into modern Turkey). Once the show begins, we are plunged straight into the heart of its dilemma – how is Medea going to survive in this alien place called London where she doesn’t speak English, and furthermore, has arrived with a forged passport? With the aid of flashbacks, Pascal and company give us a sketch of the tragic events that led Medea to London, and the fateful meeting with a “young god” named Jason.
There is much to like about Blueprint Medea — it successfully spans vastly different worlds and cultural expectations all within the tiny intimate space that is the stage of the Finborough Theatre. A simple but versatile set designed by Kati Hind (who also created the lighting) and the muscular direction of Julia Pascal show the talents of the actors to best advantage.
Ruth D’Silva as Medea gives us a leading lady trained to fight and win (even if that means using scorched earth tactics to do so). The ensemble of actors around her have individual moments to shine, and Tiran Aakel deserves special mention for his ability to switch effortlessly between such roles as the Kurdish fighter who trains Medea, and Jason’s demanding Iraqi father, who insists that his son follow the customs of his tribe. It is also worth noting that although Pascal does not employ a Chorus the way Euripides did, there are lovely moments where the whole cast takes on a Chorus-like role very effectively.
Ultimately, though, there are just faint traces of Euripides’ original in this “blueprint” version. But Pascal has found a story powerful enough to stand by itself. Blueprint Medea is a multifaceted and complex drama, and is capable of making a connection with audiences wherever they may be.
Reviewed by Dominica Plummer
Photography by Isabella Ferro
Finborough Theatre until 8th June
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