Very happy with today’s review of Medea by Libby Purves in The Times. Can’t link to it because it is hidden behind the great firewall of Murdoch. Taking a risk that News International’s lawyers are rather too busy to sue me for copyright, here it is:
Nadira Janikova sprang to attention over her affair and marriage with the whistleblowing British envoy to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray. She told the story in her show The British Ambassador’s Belly Dancer, containing the famous admission that the first time she saw him she thought: “Who is this old foreigner, does he have any money?”
Seven years on, as an actress, she radiates an exile’s determined vigour: a steely, competent, wounded, potentially ruthless brand of feminine strength, which makes her ideal casting for Euripides’ Medea in a sinewy new version by Stella Duffy, directed by Sarah Chew.
Medea after all, though a royal granddaughter of the Sun-god Helios, is the foreign wife of an Establishment man, Jason. Far from her roots and rejected, she becomes the avenging demon who kills her rival and her own two small sons.
Because the horrible story is familiar — Duffy uses the traditional prophetic, worried chorus of women to signpost it — it is mainly a meditation on motive and provocation, with Medea’s pain at its heart. Uninhibited howls of “dark, wild grief” and rage greet us from behind the marbled slabs of the set even before we sit down: when she appears, exotically scarfed, she rages about being foreign, deceived, betrayed and as fierce as any man.
For all the high language and the sinuous, scarf-twisting writhing, Janikova is most real in the more colloquial lines, as she contemplates her dark intent and flirts deceitfully with Jason, who is played by Richard Fry in blokey and exasperated Cockney, like an EastEnders geezer telling his stroppy girlfriend to “leave it off, darling”. That actually works rather well, giving a sense of grounded realpolitik to counterbalance Medea’s primitive rage. As he says soothingly “I don’t blame you, you’re a woman”, her eyes hood with dark intention.
Sarah Berger, powerful as the nurse, relates the revolting details of the bride’s death; two sweet twin boys (the Pleasance director’s, I am told) are seen, although mercifully their throats only get slit offstage. A grim but gripping hour, but worth the ride.
Box office: 0131-623 3030; to Aug 29