February 25, 2005

Medea - The Tuesday Meeting

Initial Ideas

– Using a painting of a mother and child as a backdrop to the action. Have the painting on a large canvas hanging from the catwalk on the back wall. As the performance progresses someone slowly paints out the child with white paint, removing them from the action. Rachel painting and in charge of organising fellow painters.
– Child sound effects at the beginning, we need a tape of children playing and laughing and then have this descend into them screaming, as they realise that their mother is going to kill them. This soundtrack accompanies….
– Two people running on the catwalk at the start. It has to be clear that at first they are running as though they are playing and then start running from their mother, Kali and Frankie doing this.
– Pictures that symbolise oppression, revenge and helplessness. These are three of the key words we thought summed up Medea from our pre-practical meeting on Thursday. These pictures or newspaper cuttings etc. would appear on the canvas as scenes are performed in relation to the words. So small images appearing on the canvas as the child is painted out?
– The death of the children is shown at the beginning and end of the play, in the hope that the audience have changed their minds about the neccessity of it between the first showing and the last.
– Singing and chanting to create soundscape and to communicate the lines of the chorus, as in the production of Hecuba that was shown in the Arts Centre.
– Jack's Dada poem should be included, possibly set to music or read on the microphone (eg. like we did with Yarker).
– Interviewing people "on the street", telling them about the play and getting their opinions on Medea. Then using what they say in the performance.
– From the exercise we did with Annisa use the ritualistic ideas surrounding murder and burial to symbolise the death of the children.
– Key words to do with Medea: HELPLESS, WRONGED, OPPRESSED, AVENGED, HONOUR, DESERTION. Use these words as a basis for scenes in the middle of the performance to show why she was justified in the killing of her children.
– Use recent media cases of child killings, photos, newspaper cuttings and headlines. Contemporary cases with similar issues.
– Having cloth walls to divide the space and create a square auditorium.

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  1. Euripides

    Do you know that when I wrote this play, the traditional version of the Medea legend had the children being killed by someone else? Therefore my original audience would not have been aware that she would actually find the courage to kill them. What effect do you think this has on the dramatic tension during Medea's tortured vacillations between killing/not killing her children?

    25 Feb 2005, 21:24

  2. Well…Euripides, I think this only serves to highlight the fact that Medea is by no means a cruel and selfish muderer, but a tormented and persecuted woman who struggles with her dilemma over how best to deal with her children. The very fact that originally you wrote the play with Medea being unable to commit the murder, shows that this was by no means an easy decision at which she arrived. It was the result of careful and logical thinking, resulting, as your final work did, in that she kills the children because this is truthfully the best thing she thinks she can do for them. If you don't mind me quoting your work, "If I dither around I merely leave them for someone else, some other enemy, to kill. It is only right that she who gave them life should take it away.

    25 Feb 2005, 23:42

  3. Euripides

    Very interesting! You may also be interested, however, to know that according to the law of 'double descent' (passed in Athens a few years before I wrote Medea), a person needed to have both a Greek mother and a Greek father to be an Athenian citizen. On the one hand, this was something of a breakthrough for women – before you only needed a Greek father, the mother didn't matter so much – but on the other hand it makes Jason's desire to marry Creon's daughter more understandable, and his claim to want to legitimate his existing children perhaps more believable. Medea, remember, is the barbarian in this play – the chorus are native Greeks. And so are you. The original audience, in fact, would probably have been made up exclusively of male Athenians, and Medea herself would have been played by a man…

    26 Feb 2005, 10:59

  4. Yes, you're right, this rule does make Jason's actions more understandable, but it still fails to make them morally viable. After having his children with Medea he held a responsibility of loyalty towards her, so even if his infidelity was a means to legitimise his children and not simply a power driven and adulterous move by which to secure himself as a figure of royalty, his primary concern should have been his wife; the mother of his children. If, as you claim, Jason's pivotal concern was the legitimising of his children then surely this suggests he cared for their welfare. But the very fact that Medea recognised that if she failed to kill them before being exiled, then her children would perish to another hand, shows that they clearly did not have a father who's main concern was protecting them. Let's face it, Jason's actions weren't driven by the need to do good for his offspring, his motives were purely selfish. Medea is only the barbarian in this play because of the way she is treated by Jason, her actions are purely consequential from his original wrong doings. Fair enough, her murdering of Creon and his daughter were pure "woman scorned" revenge tactics, but the slaughter of her children is what interests me – this was not a callous murder but something very different, she was saving them from a worse fate.

    26 Feb 2005, 14:12

  5. Euripides

    I agree – you are a more astute spectator of my plays than were those 5th century B.C. Athenians. The bastards only gave me second prize for this play. However, just as Medea's murder of her children is distinguished from her murder of Creon and his daughter (which as you say is 'woman scorned revenge tactics'), don't you think that there is some shift in the balance of sympathy at the end when Jason is lamenting the loss of his sons? You may be right that he only seems to remarry for selfish reasons, and not for the good of his children, but to have its full impact Medea's revenge depends on Jason caring about his children to some extent. Perhaps Medea, in her triumph at the end, and in her transfromation to Goddess-status, loses both her femininity and her humanity, while Jason becomes as pitiable a figure as Medea was at the beginning – he is now the underdog, she is merciless in her victory. I like the thought of how uncomfortable this must make my audiences. I'm a bit creepy like that.

    26 Feb 2005, 15:06

  6. The ending is uncomfortable, and I do agree that in the final scenes of the play Jason has the audience sympathy as he pleads for his son's lives. However, he only shows consideration towards his sons when their lives are in danger. Where was this man's paternal protection and love when he abandoned the boys and their mother? Although I too feel sympathy for Jason as he proclaims "I beg you, spare our son" I believe that it is just a case of too little too late. If Medea thought that after her exile her sons would be cared for by their father and not left to face the angry Greek chorus, then she would have no need to kill them. Jason's inital neglect is what kills his sons. For Medea, these murders have a two-fold purpose; not only is she doing what she thinks is best, but she is hurting Jason as he hurt her. By killing their sons, the living and breathing symbols of the union that these two people once shared, she is disconnecting herself entirely from this man who has wronged her, everything they shared is destroyed, and that is what she wants, "If, even now, there is, unknown to me, some fetus spawned by you inside my womb, I'll use this sword and tear it out with steel." I agree that Medea indeed loses both her femininity and humanity at the end of this play; but what can we expect when no one has bothered to treat her like a woman, or even a human being.

    26 Feb 2005, 16:45

  7. Euripides

    Your reading of my play is sensitive and balanced. Thank you Grace. Now I can rest in peace. Aaaaaaah… Oh and by the way, if you haven't already read it, I recommend my masterpiece The Trojan Women for its chilling exploration of man's inhumanity to woman.

    26 Feb 2005, 17:50

  8. Euripides, don't stretch the truth, eh? Medea came in LAST, not second, during the City Dionysia. Now go back to Hades (this whole 'resting in peace' notion is nonsense, you'll be forever fighting with Aesychlus a la Aristophanes style for eternity) and let the living desecrate your play in peace!

    28 Feb 2005, 01:18

  9. Aeschylus

    You tell him, Annisa.

    28 Feb 2005, 21:21

  10. Coordinator

    woooooooooooah grace, save your money for the children…or alternatively just get our treasurer to steal some for the children

    02 Mar 2005, 15:57

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