By April Howard
It is rare to come across a set of performers as flawless as the cast of Phoenix Theatre Company’s Medea. Leading the cast is Charlie Culley who gives a powerful performance as the eponymous tragic heroine Medea. Her impression on the audience is, without a doubt, a lasting one. She shows great stamina, holding the tension and the audience’s attention for every moment. Her talent is unique and omnipotent. Medea’s monologues, with all their emotional peaks and falls, are brought vividly to life by Culley’s raw talent, sweeping effortlessly between moments of mania, indecision, misery, and, ultimately, resolution.
Playing alongside Culley’s palpable talent is Jack Coombs as Jason. Coombs brings his character to life with admirable ease. Jason materializes in front of the audience as a superlative male manipulator, a gaslighting, suit-wearing “eloquent brute.” The tension between Coombs and Culley is clear for all to see and their stage presences work very well together. They are a very well-cast duo.
The costuming is excellently thought- out. Jason becomes increasingly more dishevelled as he first loses his blazer then his tie as he descends into grief and pain. The chorus’ initial appearance in white summery clothes provides a beautiful aesthetic backdrop and their final appearance in wedding dresses provides a haunting shadow to the tragedy unfurling before them. I must also commend Dragos Farcas for his excellent use of lighting. The play ends with the stage drenched in red light, as blood-soaked as the play’s heroine, perfectly complementing the mood and aesthetic of this final tragic moment.
The chorus appears over a video that is cast upon the back curtain of the stage. I commend director Emily Oliver and producer Lamesha Ruddock for their innovative choices as they do make the play memorable and visually stunning. The video intervals act as a sort- of modern iteration of Greek theatre’s ‘Deus Ex Machina’, transforming the chorus of Corinthian women into otherworldly figures. The only issue which arises from this choice is that the sporadic use of video in this way changes the pace into a staccato one as the brief pauses after the video has vanished interrupt the flow of the production. However, the choice to use video is a laudable one and the videos themselves are masterpieces of aesthetic and of performance. Chorus members Giorgia Laird, Honor Douglas, and Eloise Richmond shine as dazzling figures who perform emotively and powerfully.
The other brave and innovative choice is the use of music and dance for the scene in which Laird, as the messenger, relays the story of the death of the princess and Creon. The dance, performed by the very gifted Hannah Langlois, is well-performed and excellently- choreographed. In moments of graphic, violent description, Langlois’ movement excellently portray the horror. However, the music jars the raw emotion of the scene and the use of dance and music in this way distracts from the power of the messenger’s speech.
Overall, I would call on everyone who loves theatre, especially tragedy, to go and see this production. The amount of thought and talent that has been fed into this performance is outstanding. The cast is immaculate, the production is incredible and daring, and the final product is a moving, thought-provoking, and intensely- watchable tour de force.
Image credit: George Sutton, Phoenix Theatre Company
Stage Contributor Facebook Group (click to write for us!): https://www.facebook.com/groups/1105139026203785