Warren Central High School Theatre’s production of ‘Medea’ for the American High School Theatre Festival takes a largely traditional approach to the Greek tragedy.
It is a play which boasts some exceptional performances and a sense of tension throughout, but which ultimately falls short of delivering the full drama of a Greek tragedy.
The real stand out performances in the show come from Taylor Buckner in the title role, and Christine Gordon as the chorus leader. Both actors deliver strong, gripping performances which give the production a power which carries throughout.
The Medea that Buckner portrays is full of power and an unnerving drive for vengeance. She comes into her own particularly in the scene where Medea stands up to her husband, Jason. The dynamic between the two is one of the play’s greatest strengths. The violence and power struggle that the tragedy is driven by is embodied in the two characters stood head to head on stage, the physically smaller Medea staring at her husband with a powerful fury.
Gordon’s acting is at its most impressive when she delivers her monologues, masterfully moving the play’s narrative along with an intriguing intensity.
Although the acting is generally impressive, there are some moments throughout the play when the dialogue seems rushed, a problem which sometimes leads to the play missing the beat of the drama that it requires for full impact.
Despite an overarching sense of truth to the play’s origins, indicated in a simple set and the use of traditional masks, there are times when the cast make intelligent use of the dated attitudes to gender in the play. Characters frequently twist misogynistic idioms and assumptions within the dialogue into an ironic and subtle mocking of such attitudes. This injects small, effective notes of humour into an otherwise incredibly dark play, and it works remarkably well.
The costumes are confusing; some characters wear traditional dress while others are dressed in modern suits. Though a detail, it remains unclear whether the anachronisms are an intentional part of the adaptation, so they achieve little towards making the overall spectacle more interesting.
Though imperfect and occasionally misjudged, this production of Medea is driven by a promising, talented young cast, and presents a subtle challenge to tradition from within.
Medea played at Central Hall as part of the Edinburgh Fringe until August 18.