Review: Reworking turns classic tale of vengeance on its head

By Paul Simei-Barton

Levi Kereama, Bronwyn Bradley and Joe Valentine star in the reimagined Medea.
Levi Kereama, Bronwyn Bradley and Joe Valentine star in the reimagined Medea.

The enduring relevance of Greek tragedy is persuasively demonstrated in Euripides' Medea, which shockingly suggests murderous violations of the sacred bond between a mother and child cannot be explained away as madness or evil.

The play asks us to consider the potential for unspeakable violence lies within each of us and the unsettling power of this idea is heightened in Kate Mulvany and Anne-Louise Sarks' brilliant reworking of the classic, brought to Auckland by Silo Theatre.

With a contemporary flipping of the script, their version tells the story from the perspective of the two children who are the innocent and unknowing victims of their mother's deadly scheming.

Medea's ruthless vengeance on her unfaithful husband is all but ignored and instead we are confronted with the horrifying reality that families are not always what they seem and the loving nurture that children expect from their parents can be tragically perverted.

The slow-burning impact of the production stems from the way it draws us into the child's point-of-view with an utterly charming vision of two brothers stepping in and out of make-believe worlds and using casual distractions to block out emotions too painful to endure.

Jo Valentine and Levi Kereama perform with the kind of authenticity that seasoned actors spend their entire lives striving to achieve.

It would be a mistake to believe such naturalness arises spontaneously. The dialogue, with its wonderfully idiosyncratic humour, bears the hallmarks of intensive work-shopping and Rachel House's restrained direction has created a space in which the young actors' talent can shine.

Bronwyn Bradley's Medea movingly evokes the tenderness of maternal affection as she dresses her boys and speaks of a love that is minutely focused on the particular details of her dying children.

What: Medea

Where: Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre

When: to July 9

- NZ Herald

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