NT Live: ‘Medea’

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Hell hath no fury than a woman scorned. That is most definitely the case as Helen McCrory takes the stage in Ben Power’s adaptation of Euripides classic play Medea. It is an age old story that has been adapted for centuries yet still resonates in our society today. The tragedy follows a single mother coping with the loss of her unfaithful husband by attempting to get revenge on him. It explores what happens when the loathing of someone is stronger than the love for your own children so much so that it brings to light a taboo that no one wants to accept happens; mothers murdering their own children.

With such a disturbing narrative, the play’s disconcerting atmosphere is intensified through the use of the scenery most significantly a fog ridden forest. However what truly exemplifies the tragedy is the chilling performance given by the cast members. McCrory’s regal persona strongly emphasises Medea’s royal connection to the king of Colchis and adds an emotional ferocity to the character in which her exile from her own father and country and the abandonment of her husband; Jason (of the Argonauts) causes her ultimate destruction. Of course, we expect nothing less from McCrory since she began her career inside the National Theatre’s very own walls.

Power’s adaptation adds a tremendously powerful depth to the play with help from Gregory and Goldfrapp’s musical scores. With the use of a repetitive, piano tune throughout (first played by one of Medea’s ultimately doomed children) the 1 hour 30 minute tragedy keeps the audience tense throughout. Additionally the use of choir music at extremely important and disturbing moments adds to an already intensive hair-raising atmosphere which emanates the grandness of certain acts taken. This is also seen clearly when coupled with the disturbing dance-like twitchy movements the Greek chorus named the women of Corinth use when the play nears its dramatic finale as if to represent Medea’s own frantic and unsettling frame of mind.

Power has seamlessly placed this ancient Greek play into modernity and has also expertly kept the tragedy intact as to leave the entire audience disturbed by the scenes that have just took place in front of them. Yet what is most magnificent about this National Theatre performance is that it not only parallels with nowadays but also the decade long scholarly debate surrounding Euripides’ tragedy by allowing the audience to decide who is to blame for the finale. It leaves the viewer unsure as to who to actually feel sorry for since ‘terrible things breed in broken hearts’.

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NT Live: ‘The Curious Incident of The Dog in the Night-Time’

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8/10

Marianne Elliott’s adapted stage play from Mark Haddon’s world acclaimed novel of the same name; The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time tells the story of an autistic fifteen year old boy named Christopher Boone who attempts to solve the mystery of who killed his neighbour’s dog Wellington. Deciding to document his finding by writing a book about it Christopher unknowingly upturns his entire world which sparks his very own journey to the most disorienting place in the UK; London. Although the narrative focuses around Christopher and his autism, the play does not turn his disability into a commodity but creates an awareness of it by putting the audience through what he experiences. Rather than completely focussing on autism, the play’s main themes consist of the relationships surrounding Christopher and how they breakdown and rebuild.

The set is cleverly built as a box that represents Christopher’s mind processes, with words and numbers appearing on areas of the stage at several moments during the narrative. Additionally, light and sound is used to a great effect as a means to portray how autistic people can become confused and disoriented throughout. This is presented even more so through a form of physical theatre whereby the actors all carry, push and spin Christopher around during times of confusion and panic accompanying the routine with flashing lights and general loud noises from his surroundings such as trains halting and snippets of advertising while at the train station. However, sound was also used to a great effect when there was none. The silence made for more emotional scenes which also created a disturbingly awkward atmosphere after the volume of noise recently heard. Once again, these scenes allow the audience to connect to Christopher as well as emphasise the impact these scenes have on him.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time only consists of 10 cast members on stage that play a variety of characters, however the audience forgets this as the entire cast act their numerous parts realistically. Moreover, the audience themselves are thrown into the mystery of who killed Wellington and are deeply immersed into the mind of Christopher Boone as he travels through busy, loud places such as the London Underground to be able to notice the same actor play a different part. Luke Treadaway especially must be applauded for his excellent portrayal of Christopher as he does not simply present himself as the stereotype of an autistic boy but creates his own individual form of autism to a great quality.

Despite dealing with a rather heavy topic, the play also contains some light heartedness through its self-awareness as a play, with parts where Christopher claims something different happened than what the audience just witnessed on stage. However, there are a few comments that Christopher makes which leave the audience considering if it is alright to laugh since his autism is the crux of the humour. This is what makes The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time so significant though as the play relies on these social uncertainties to create a thrilling yet unconventional and informative stage play that leads the viewer into seeing the world from the eyes of an autistic fifteen year old.