BWW Review: MEDEA, Barbican
Euripides most famous and ruthless female character comes to life again at the hand of director Simon Stone and International Theatre Amsterdam after an award-winning run in the Dutch capital in 2014.
In his adaptation of Medea, the infamous mother is modeled after Debora Green, who poisoned her unfaithful spouse and killed two of her three children back in 1995.
Anna (Marieke Heebink) is returning home after a lengthy hospitalisation in a psychiatric ward for regularly feeding her husband (Aus Greidanus Jr) ricin after finding out he was cheating on her. Now that she's back, she wants a fresh start with him and their sons, but he has a different plan. His relationship with Clara (Eva Heijnen) and his having sole custody of their kids drive Anna to the breaking point.
Stone turns the Barbican stage into an aseptic and virgin white playground designed by Bob Cousins. He toys with minimalism and avant-garde, presenting an intense show that plays with space and time and uses projections to focus the action. The lack of a precise setting makes the revamped Greek myth an abstract yet relatable idea that pushes resentment and general human sourness to bring the family to their knees.
Heebnik and Gridanus Jr share a hot-headed and impetuous connection, their performances equally jarring. Both spiteful and unsympathetic towards each other, their selfishness is their ultimate undoing and the interactions with their offsprings (Faas Jonkers and Poema Kitseroo) switch from cold to calculating.
There's not much capacity for warmth or fondness in Stone's experimental production, starting with Heebnik's twisted instincts being put in opposition to Clara's motherly acts. Heebnik nurses Anna's endgame subtly and delivers her modern Medea as ferociously detached while she gaslights and guilt-trips the other characters.
Thought-provoking and exceptionally striking direction-wise, Stone's Medea is a relentless analysis of human behaviour.
Photo credit: Sanne Peper