Our version of EURIPIDES’ Medea was first performed in Winnipeg at the Manitoba Theatre Centre in July 2002 before touring Canada, USA and the UK, winning BBC Best Play at the 2008 Manchester Festival.
We wonder what Euripides himself would have thought of it. What would he have made of the famous National Theatre version or Passolini’s contentious film starring Maria Callas? The i-Witness Publications version was adapted to make it accessible for modern audiences – and as such the structure of the play was changed. Why do that?
Well…! There is no deus ex-machina to rescue Medea at the end of the play and wing her off to a celestial place of safety. Euripides never punished Medea for her awful crimes – but, indeed, perhaps by omission he was asking – What possible punishment can be exacted on a mother who slays her children? In our award-winning adaptation, Medea is sentenced to suffer the torment and inescapable consequences of her murder by performing her tragedy over and over in diverse times and in different lands.
At the start of our adaptation, the only two characters, CHORUS and MEDEA find themselves in a modern theatre and start preparing to perform the tragedy of MEDEA so that the ‘modern’ audience can be tutored in what is good and what is evil. Medea is reluctant to prepare for her part – she is bored and lacking in motivation. Why can’t they play comedy for once? Or something by Orpheus or Sappho?
Chorus reminds Medea of her duty, charged by the Muses and ordained by the Gods. She must perform MEDEA and explain how she used her sorcery to help Jason win the Golden Fleece and persuaded him to marry her. Jason has forsaken her for a young princess and Medea must exact revenge by killing their two children.
‘Why must I always be the one to commit such a base crime?’ pleads Medea who suggests that she and Chorus escape from the theatre, find a local tavern and some young barbarians. Chorus is insistent though and spurs Medea on to execute the most perfidious crime in history.
Chorus leads a weeping Medea off the stage, presumably to another space and time where they will perform MEDEA once more.
‘Do you think they learnt anything?’ asks Medea. ‘Will they still send their sons off to be slaughtered in war?’
‘That is for them to decide,’ answers Chorus. ‘We have done our duty. We must away.’
We hope Euripides would like our adaptation – but one thing is clear! – his message about the forces of good and evil are as relevant today as they were in 431 BCE when the play was first performed.
The i-Witness Publications version is soon to be available in hard copy. Take a look.