This contemporary retelling of Euripides’ classic unfolds in a tween bedroom, where two brothers, Leon and Jasper, draw moustaches on each others faces, take turns pretending to die, and fight over their endless collection of nerf guns. It’s endearing and sweet and familiar, made more so, for me, by the fact that the stage lights bled onto the proud faces of the two young actors’ parents, sitting in the front row. They had a right to be proud, child stars Levi Kereama and Joe Valentine made me believe them through and through.
I went in knowing they would die, of course, that’s the primary piece of action in Medea. This alternative treatment of the story – humanising the children, placing them in the spotlight – adds a heavy, expectant sense of foreboding to every line of dialogue. The tension built slowly, and most of it came from within my own head: How will she do it? I caught myself wondering, over and over again. Every time Medea (Bronwyn Bradley) entered the room I held my breath.
As is often the case when children are used as protagonists, the age appropriate dialogue is punctuated by hefty dollops of adult insight and humour – clues for the audience. In this play, these clues were fed to us slowly, building a structure of pure tension that only peaked at the very last moment.
The most sinister and subtle element of John Verryt’s immersive, nostalgic set was a simple locked door – it was a symbol of irrational behaviour, of madness, in what was otherwise a very familiar environment. Perhaps the most shocking thing, for me, about this re-telling, was that it was entirely believable. Bradley’s Medea was sympathetic, even likeable, and I never doubted her belief that she was doing the right thing for herself and her children. That was frightening.
This is the magic of Silo Theatre, reminding me once more of the terrible complexity of each human life. The company creates theatre that makes the world seem larger and smaller at the same time. The thing I love most about their work is that it always takes me by surprise. With Medea, they did it again.
Silo’s Medea is playing at the Herald Theatre until 9 July. Get tickets >>