Transporting the Ancient Greek play Medea by Euripides to the synth scene of the 1980s somewhere in the English midlands could go terribly wrong. After having seen this play in different variations at Wilton’s, the National Theatre and the Almeida Theatre along with the Lars van Trier film and the one starring Maria Callas I fear third-class youth clubs as a backdrop and terrible “ironic” costumes. But Medea Electronica is not a pop story and neither that of a sorceress – it’s the narrating of Dea East, a house wife who gets more and more ignored by her husband Jason for whose career she moved here, not knowing anyone but bravely trying to make her sons part of the local community. But with Jason’s economic relevance in the town Dea is rather being observed than welcomed, soon given the nickname Harpy. He doesn’t help with her integration, neither with issues in the school or admitting any awareness of the marriage falling apart. With no friends around, reduced to looking after their two boys who do not want to be here, life is not easy. Dea has no explanation for them why Jason suddenly moves out and only sends a gentleman over to pick up his stuff. It is his lover, it turns out later.
The only reaction Dea gets from Jason finally is almost an accusation: That Jason only married her ten years ago to inherit his father’s management board position which would have never had happened if he had come out. He wants the house back and full custody of the boys; with no income on her own and the argument of Dea’s postnatal depression she knows she has no chance – there is no going back to London or elsewhere in dignity either.
I do not know if it is worse watching Medea when you know the outcome of the story already or not: It is intense, unfair and horrible in any case and excellent drama all together.
Starring creator Mella Faye this is not a one-woman-show as she is joined on stage by a synth player (on Korg instruments and a rarely seen Folktek sound machine) and a drummer on an electronic drumkit. As Pecho Mama the three of them play the soundtrack of this outstanding piece of music theatre live. All the other characters’ voices are sampled dialogue being played back over the audio speakers not belonging to anyone looking at Dea, but all haunting her and maybe turning into voices in her head. When she bursts into well crafted, synth-accompanied songs between the scenes we hope for a while that Dea escapes her lonely life by imagining being a singer or even continuing her career if only in her own kitchen but inevitable the phone will ring with yet another bad message and no support from anyone. Loneliness is a killer.
After we leave what must be the most comfortable benches in any theatre in the capital, we buy the soundtrack on CD directly from the artists in the foyer. Excited we learn that more stage pieces by them will follow this Spring. Then we agree that we have just found under light chains and factory brick work our new favourite venue in North London.
Medea Electronica by Pecho Mama
***** out of 5 stars
We paid £15 per ticket plus fees with unreserved seating directly at the Pleaseance Theatre’s website.