AS the name implies, Blueprint Medea is a modern twist on Euripides’s Ancient Greek tragedy Medea – the relationship between a revengeful Medea and Jason.
Medea (Ruth D’Silva) is a Kurdish freedom fighter scarred by the horrors of war. She flees to the UK where despite a forged passport she somehow wangles her way into the country, helped by a kindly official called Suzy (Amanda Maud).
Not before long, she is cleaning for a living. Through work, she meets Jason-Mohammed (Max Rinehart), a lithe and somewhat cheeky individual of Iraqi background, who spends his time working out (move like a butterfly, sting like a bee) and learning the knowledge.
His father (Tiran Aakel) is a taxi driver – he is also mercurial, tyrannical, patriarchal, loud and rather vulgar. Not before too long, a relationship between Medea and Jason blossoms like daffodils in spring and seeds are planted. Twin boys emerge from the relationship.
Yet there is trouble at mill. Medea is no virgin, a fact we learn through flashback to her days as a freedom fighter when virgins were soon despoiled if captured by the enemy. Her impurity rankles with Jason and it infuriates his father – ‘she’s living with you like a prostitute’ he balls at one stage. Jason is soon lined up with a rather naïve Glauke (Shaniaz Hama-Ali), a good Muslim virgin and his cousin who will look after the twins.
Glauke’s infatuation with Jason knows no bounds – she describes him as a ‘young God’. A little over-the-top. Jason succumbs to his bullying father but there is no one more potent, more revengeful, than a scorned Medea. Poor virginal Glauke.
The play, written and directed by Julia Pascal – and enjoying its world premiere at the Finborough Theatre – is powerful fare. It covers a mishmash of relevant and topical issues – cultural identity, the emancipation (or otherwise) of women, the strangle-like grip of religion, sex, family and a lot more besides. Bold and brave although some themes end up a little under-nourished. A lot of ingredients to pack into 80 minutes. A paella of a play with something for everyone to like.
The cast is a strong one with all sweating for their pay by playing a multitude of parts. Aakel is exceptional as Jason’s father, Rinehart gives Jason heaps of chutzpah, while D’Silva’s Medea is all inner hardness and single-mindedness, topped up with a layer of mysticism (magic fingers) and occasional smile (especially when Jason comes into her life). But cross her at your peril. I wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of Medea. Meanwhile, Maud and Hama-Ali are both effective as the caring – and tragic – Suzy and Glauke.
There is some exquisite singing – and along the way plenty of shrouds, guns and wedding headpieces. Indeed, the play fires into life when they are as one – either as Kurdish fighters under siege or as newcomers to the UK learning the English language.
Brave theatre. Not a triumph, but not far short.
Photos by Isabella Ferro