Medea on Media
- Gareth K Vile
- 4 August 2017
Dynamic and disrupted reframing of the ancient Greek tragedy
Although Hyuntak Kim's Medea on Media is faithful to Euripides' play in both structure and script, it reimagines the classical myth through a frenetic filter of contemporary genres, from police drama through reality television to online fantasy role-play gaming. In a series of dynamic episodes, punctuated by the cast changing costumes in a contrasting stillness, Kim's production updates the story of a spurned woman's revenge until it speaks more of contemporary pressure than ancient jealousy.
The precise meaning of some scenes' references are lost in the cultural gap between Korean and British theatre: the stylised drama of Medea's argument with the King of Corinth appears to pastiche a traditional Korean classical tradition, unfamiliar to European audiences, while the fulsome finale suggests an embarrassing and unfashionable celebrity TV special. Yet the energy of the cast infuses the scenes with a passion and humour that communicates roughly and frantically the production's wit and intelligence.
At times, the energy spills into incoherence, as when Medea's decision to kill her children is rendered as an online gaming session, and the fragmented, episodic structure deconstructs Greek tragedy into a mundane series of domestic disputes that end in horrific violence.
The choice of Medea as the foundation for Kim's meditations on contemporary media is obscure: the ruptured narrative refuses to add much to her specific story, but uses it as an outline for witty comments on the clichéd absurdity of the various genres. It builds not towards tragedy but parody, and Medea herself is lost in the translation.
The comic scenes are occasionally too broad – the confrontation between Medea and Jason as a Jeremy Kyle show brawl, for example – but Kim's vision of Medea as a modern woman questions the problems of a society saturated by information, in which emotions are merely an expression of media tropes.
C, until 28 Aug, 8.50pm, £10.50–£12.50 (£6.50–£10.50).