The personal connection I feel to the character of Medea

This article is from 2011.

Stage Whispers: Nadira Janikova on the personal connection she feels to the character of Medea

Nadira Janikova presents Edinburgh Fringe production of classic work

Medea represents a huge challenge for any actress: trying to convey on stage the power of somebody who is a demigod; and finding the human side of somebody who commits the most unnatural and terrible of all crimes – the murder of their own children.

To help me in the role I looked inside myself to find those aspects of my own experience relating to those of Medea. Like her, I am from Central Asia – she from Colchis, I from Samarkand. I grew up in a society where women’s roles are defined for them and where – whatever the law – the wealthy and powerful often have more than one wife.

Like Medea I am also a political exile who cannot return to my homeland. When I first came to the UK, my situation was very similar. My partner had been sacked as British Ambassador to Uzbekistan for his criticisms of the Uzbek government. I was on holiday with him in the UK, and suddenly I could never go back. My visa expired and I was advised to leave the country to apply for a new one. I flew to Dublin, but my application was denied. I faced the prospect of having absolutely nowhere I could go, a devastating scenario that mirrors the situation Medea finds herself in.

I lived stateless for three years - a horrible feeling of insecurity. I was helped by the President of Ghana, who granted me temporary citizenship – there is a parallel here with Medea turning to the Athenian king for help – in 2010 I was finally given a British passport.

Beyond all this, I am a new mother. The horror of Medea murdering her children is a horror anyone can feel, but as a parent it is the most terrifying thought of all. Getting under the skin of a woman like Medea is quite a life-changing experience.

Medea, Assembly George Square, 623 3030, until 29 Aug, 6.30pm, £12–£13 (£10).


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