Modern take on Greek tragedy combines heartbreak and passion
Greek tragedy Medea took a modern turn in a Luxembourg theatre production about enchantress Medea’s ruthless revenge against her betraying spouse.
Luxembourg director, Rafael David Kohn, manages to create heartbreak, passion and moments of comedy in his version of Euripides’ 2,500-year-old tragedy.
After sea-faring adventures aboard the Argo ship, hero Jason takes his wife Medea into exile in Corinth, a land foreign to her. He’s a politically ambitious man, and soon seeks to marry Kreusa, the daughter of the King of Corinth – Kreon – abandoning his wife and two children. Medea’s thoughts turn to revenge, culminating in the murder of her own children.
The play opens with Medea lamenting the loss of her husband’s love, watched by the Chorus, sympathetic to her plight, but afraid of what she might do to herself and her children. The action moves to arrogant Jason, who feels no remorse, and justifies marrying into royalty as rooted in his desire to give his future family the legacy he believes they deserve.
Princess Kreusa, his new bride, is haughty and unwilling to feel any pity for Medea’s plight. Afraid that she will use witchcraft brought from foreign lands, King Kreon banishes Medea and her children into exile. She gets a reprieve of just one day, but that’s enough for her to exact her revenge.
Brigitte Urhausen in the title role portrays Medea with passion, bordering on madness, as a woman who believes this wrongdoing, witnessed by the gods, cannot go unpunished.
The interplay between Medea and Jason, played by Nicholas Monu, is intimate and tender, yet vicious. There are even moments of comedy, as a husband and wife chide each other.
Kohn’s adaptation features the Chorus as representing both the gods and the servants of Medea’s household - the only people she trusts. Their gossip moves the plot along, but Medea turns to them to justify her intended actions.
Perhaps the most mesmerising scene comes near the end, when Medea wrestles with her own conscience, in dialogue with the gods.
Costume designer Caroline Koener contributed hugely to the atmosphere and setting and the creepy baby masks that Medea's children wore dehumanise them in advance of the act that concludes the play.
Giant leather skins adorn the walls, the floor is covered in grit and sand, but there are tinges of gold in the lighting design – perhaps a hint of the presence of the gods.
Kohn is one of three co-founders of a new English theatre company in Luxembourg, Collateral Drama. In his first full-length performance, he has presented an original and passionate version of Medea.
Medea is playing at the Grand Théâtre from March 12 to 17, and again on March 20 and 22.