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MEDEA @ The State Theatre Centre gets 8/10


Black Swan State Theatre Company in collaboration with WA Youth Theatre Company’s Medea @ State Theatre Centre
Thursday, August 8, 2019

8/10

Kate Mulvany and Anne-Louise Sarks’ adaptation of Medea by Euripides at the State Theatre Centre enjoyed an extremely well-attended preview night after touring the world and finally making it to Mulvany’s home state. This modern adaptation of the ancient Greek classic by Black Swan, in collaboration with WA Youth Theatre Company, rewarded the audience with a one-act play that had it all; an incredibly well-designed set, quality props, exceptional acting by the two youngsters playing Medea’s sons, lots of light-hearted laughs, frequent moments of poignant depth, and scenes moving enough to inspire a few sniffles and tears.

Upon arriving at the venue, the set by the award-winning Tyler Hill piqued curiosity about where this modern adaptation was going to take its audience. A child’s bedroom, with plush, cream-coloured carpet covered in every toy a kid could ever want, two single beds, navy walls embellished with a galaxy of glow-in-the-dark stars, and even a fish tank with live fish, made the space feel intimate and cosy. As the soundtrack commenced the crowd was surrounded by childish whispers that evoked stories told once lights-out has been called, and the play opened with the two main characters, brothers Jasper (Jalen Hewitt) and Leon (Jesse Vakatini) lying face-down on the carpet.

It became clear then that this version of Medea would be told through the perspective of Jason and Medea’s children, arguably the most affected by the actions of this classic and therefore a wonderful choice for exploration in an adaptation of a play that has been performed countless times. The boys Jasper and Leon are locked in their bedroom until “mum and dad have sorted stuff out,” a notion that leaves a lot of room for contemplation, and watching them while away the time with imagination-based games often distracted from this rather dark point.

All of it felt convincing; the Nerf battles, brotherly banter, arguments, and even the beautiful moments of an older brother looking out for his younger brother with some wise advice. In the program, Mulvany writes that she and co-writer Sarks brought in two young boys, Joe Kelly and Rory Potter, aged 12 and 11, to help with bringing the general antics of the two young brothers to life, and it showed. The chemistry between Hewitt and Vakatini was exceptional, and there’s no doubt that  these youngsters have a promising acting career ahead of them.

There was plenty of light-heartedness in the script but an undercurrent of expectation and, knowing what happens in the original play, constant speculation as to when and how things were going to go horribly wrong. The occasional injection of a very frazzled and deranged Medea, played by Alexandria Steffensen, emphatically reminded one that this is a tragedy and that things are not going to end well for these kids, as they crawled deeper and deeper into your heart with every beautiful, childishly naïve and optimistic scene.

Being a classic tragedy, most people would have had an idea of how things were going to end, but seeing the way it occured in this version was very difficult. The play slowly built to a climax that left several in the audience sniffing and wiping away tears. It’s a well-directed, excellently choreographed and beautifully presented production, and an extremely interesting take on a classic that is guaranteed to move its audience.

MELISSA KRUGER

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