All About Medea – Montague Basement and the mystique feminine. (Theatre Review)

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All About Medea

Sydney Fringe Festival – 505 Theatre

You can grab your tickes here. 

All About Medea images by Patrick Morrow

In his directors notes to All About Medea, Saro Lusty-Cavallari highlights the parallels between the transformation of Jason and Medea’s relationship in ancient Greek mythology and the contemporary complications for young heteronormative couples transitioning through life’s cycles. Do we replay these myths because it is in our nature to do so, or do we feed the mythology into a hungry culture, keeping it fresh and alive with each new representation, an overwhleming insistence that the troubles of the past must remain the troubles of the future? The trouble highlighted here is the penchant for men attracted to spirited young woman to take possession in a way that kills the spirit. Surely this very issue is at the heart of the battle for reproductive rights, for there is no stronger way for a man to take ownership of the spirit of a woman than to impregnate her, creating a third ‘innocent’ party to whom she must bow or become a monster. The morning after pill, mentioned in the play, is her ticket out, and if she can’t have that, she has a safe abortion as an option. Wise, careful, sane choice trumps the mythological romanticism that leaves all power at the foot of the young man. One of the most exciting things I have witnessed in politics in this country was four MP’s crossing the floor to stand together, Labor, Liberal, National Party and Democrat, standing united in a vote against Tony Abbott’s (the then minister for health) attempts to prevent RU486 from entering Australia. What united the four disparate parties? They were all women, standing together, demanding a safe option to abort unwanted pregnancy. Tony Abbott lost, even though it was to take another eight years for the pill to be on the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. Right there is the heart of the battle for female freedom and the right for the spirited Medea to dance a wild on the dance floor, flirt, study hard, work hard, and most of all, take lovers for the simple reason of loving, self-expression and exploring another human individual – even if it is just for one night.

The initiating senators of the RU486 bill after it passed through the House of Representatives: (from left) Claire Moore (Labor), Lyn Allison (Australian Democrats), Judith Troeth (Liberal) and Fiona Nash (Nationals). AAP Image/Alan Porritt

The initiating senators of the RU486 bill after it passed through the House of Representatives: (from left) Claire Moore (Labor), Lyn Allison (Australian Democrats), Judith Troeth (Liberal) and Fiona Nash (Nationals). AAP Image/Alan Porritt

In All About Medea, this point, that the female womb becomes the battle field where these two ideologies collide,  lays the burden of a childs health on the compliance of the mother. As the chilling climax of All About Medea (that remains close to the myth – no spoilers) is executed as an inevitable consequence of the seemingly innocent actions of the pair prior, we watch with horror the deterioration of the spirit of Medea. It falls away so casually, couched and cushioned by the warm fuzzy nest of repeated mythological guidance via our culture. If the giant screen that projects the love scenes from our favourite films over the last twenty years says anything, it promises that even if things don’t go well, you are doing the right thing, and the promise is you will be preserved with beauty. The rewards are in the health and well-being of your child.  Children have always been used to justify and condemn adult behaviour, by their unspoken watchful presence and their permission betowing absence.

These are the enormous themes Saro Lusty-Cavallari and Imogen Gardam explore in the intimate apartment created for us in the small room of the Old 505 Theatre. The theatre space is perfect for the setting, small, intimate and slightly dismissive of the audience who are there very much as interlopers on this young couples privacy that (as the images plastered accross the screen inform us) is a very much public acting out. The performances (Christian Byers as our Jason and Lulu Howes as our Medea) are kept naturalistic, real and very personal to the couple. The audience very much feels we are peeking through a keyhole, keeping tabs on them, watching to make sure they behave as they are supposed to. This isn’t always successful, as there is an enormous weight on the shoulders of the actors who are themselves young and finding themselves in their talent. But this is fringe and my very favourite thing about this festival is technique and perfection are sublimated to creative passion and enormous ambition. The founders of Montague basement are very bright, talented young people who above all, are gloriously ambitious. The Fringe gives them a place to gather the experience necessary to build their foundations. As always with their shows, you do well to familiarise yourself with the mythology they explore before you attend, as that time will make a difference when thinking about the themes they want to bring to the fore.

The standard at this years Sydney Fringe has so far been consistently higher than previous years – try to get to as much as you can. Great things are happening.

You can grab your tickets for All About Medea here.

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