A modern take on an ancient drama

September 23, 2019 BY

Passion and tragedy: The Chorus played by Zara Wilson-Boyle, Tessa Marshall and Zerene Webster in rehearsal with Rebecca O'Callaghan as Medea (rear). Photo: CHIARA ANGELI

MEDEA, a powerful, highly intelligent feminist, is an immigrant living in her husband Jason’s country with their two young sons.

She sacrificed more than enough for him so when she discovers he is having an affair she decides vengeance will be hers.

Theatre director, Megan J Riedl’s modern interpretation of the ancient Greek classic Medea for Ballarat National Theatre’s upcoming season explores the dangers a patriarchal view has on strong women and the negative impact of parental conflict on children.

“Medea is so jealous, infuriated and hurt by Jason’s actions that she lets that anger take her away from normal behaviour,” Riedl said.

“She lets her rage eat up her heart, she let her emotions get the better of herself resulting in extreme consequences.”

Benjamin Marshall’s Jason comforts Medea played by Rebecca O’Callaghan during rehearsals. Photo: CHIARA ANGELI

Riedl, who came across the modern adaption by Tom Paulin of Euripides’ Greek tragedy written in 431BC, said the text is new and sounds modern.

She wanted to bring this new work, set in modern day, to Ballarat audiences because she can relate to it in a way.

“I’ve been through a separation from a partner and children are involved and it is always a complex thing,” she said. “It is interesting for me to explore this in theatre.”

While this Greek tragedy was written in past millennia the context of family conflict, ambition and social advancement, war and displacement and the battle of the sexes is still current.

The production features performances from local actors Rebecca O’Callaghan as Medea and Benjamin Marshall playing Jason.

“I think Medea will appeal to the audiences who come to hear and see the classics and like traditional theatre,” Riedl said. “But as a modern touch to a classic it may also reach others more interested in contemporary theatre.

“Rebecca, who works in the performance team at Sovereign Hill, has put a lot of hard work into the role and she will blow you away. Benjamin is professionally trained and brings a lot of experience to the role of Jason.”

Riedl explains the usual function of the chorus in Greek theatre is to analyse and comment on the play to the audience.

Her interpretation has the Chorus, played by Tessa Marshall, Zerene Webster and Zara Wilson-Boyle as characters in the show, reacting and interacting with the each other and the other players on the stage.

They become the mirror to societies attitudes in terms of modern-day breakups or even domestic violence.

“The three women are on stage watching this couple argue acting like ‘it’s not our business, it’s behind closed doors and we don’t want to be involved’,” Reidl said.

“As a society we tend to do that and what happens is instead of saying ‘hey, can we help’ the situation snowballs and ends up, in this case, with the worst-case scenario playing out.”

Ballarat National Theatre presents Medea at Ballarat Courthouse Theatre, 17 Lydiard Street South, Ballarat from Saturday, 28 September to Saturday, 5 October at 8pm with matinees on Sunday, 29 September and Saturday, 5 October at 2pm.

Tickets $25 adults, $20 concession and $18 each for group booking of ten or more, are available at Her Majesty’s Theatre Box Office during business hours, or online at hermaj.com. For further information go to bnt.org.au.