Thursday, March 13, 2008

"Medea" & "Trojan Women" - March 2008

A second group of QMU's students made their way to the Citizens to bring us the second part of their 4 Greek Tragedies season - following on from last week's "Oedipus" & "Electra". This time featuring Liz Lochhead's adaptation of "Medea" and Charles Mee's version of "Trojan Women"

"Medea" was, quite simply, wonderful theatre. In the small Stalls Studio, Sarah Annakin's Medea was at turns manic and maniacal - and absolutely owned the performance space. I've rarely seen a performance with such conviction and the bitterness was all too believable. The chorus of Donna Griffin, Charlotte Massey and Chloe Thorpe worked incredibly well and dealt effectively with what is undeniably an awkward performance space. Gemma McElhinney was impressive as the Nurse drawing the audience into the performance and then later as Glauke making her character sympathetic. And while largely on the fringes of the action Paul Luebke made Jason's frustration and then horror frighteningly real, and Andrew Dyer had his moments to shine - particularly when portraying the troubled Kreon. "Medea" was my clear favourite of the 4 productions - partly due to the relevancy Liz Lochhead's version has for modern day relationships but mainly due to the performances of an excellent cast.

I'm really not sure where I stand on "Trojan Women". I loved the first half with it's powerfully personal tales of the victims of war. In the hands of McElhinney, Massey, Thorpe, Griffin and Ellie Nixon what could have come across as cliched, emotionally manipulative tales became genuinely distressing. And then as Hecuba, Nixon takes centre stage defending her women from their fates. It's an engaging performance and really held the audience well, but for me at times it was just a little overpowering for the small space and could have benefitted from having the volume reduced a notch or two. And then there's the second half where the action shifts to a strip club (brothel?) where we find Aeneus seduced away from his promise to return and avenge Troy. And at that point it lost me, and I'm unsure what I was meant to take from it - it was much like being back in 'Waiting For Godot' all over again. A rather frustrating and disappointing end to a piece whose first half I'd very much enjoyed.

It's been really nice to see some of the work from the drama students in Edinburgh making it through to Glasgow and I hope it's something we can see again - despite the obvious problems indicated by the same post show speech we were given last week. And I can't finish without commenting on the Stalls Studio - it really isn't suitable for Acts longer than 45 minutes or so as the heat gets almost unbearable. The noise leakage from the Circle Studio above is also a problem at times. It's great to have this third performance space but it needs careful consideration as to what productions it can comfortably accomodate.