By Kate Mulvany and Anne-Louise Sarks. Black Swan State Theatre Company. Directed by Sally Richardson. Studio Underground, State Theatre Centre of Western Australia. August 8-25, 2019

Medea is a moving and captivating retelling of the classic Greek story. Switching the focus, this version is told from the perspective of Medea’s sons. Perhaps not forgotten in Euripides’ telling, they are however mute and anonymous. This version, a collaboration between Black Swan State Theatre and WA Youth Theatre, celebrates their humanity, innocence and fraternity, and lets us love them, perhaps increasing the tragedy of the original tale.

As the boys wait for their parents to negotiate about their failed marriage, they bicker, play and try to understand their situation. Opening night saw Jalen Hewitt as preteen Jasper and Jesse Vakatini as big brother Leon, in expertly crafted performances. These young, debuting actors handle these big roles with aplomb, establishing convincing family relationships and showing wonderful depth of character. The audience warm to these funny and clever boys, and as most of the audience know their ultimate fate, the show, though warm and funny, carries a dark overtone throughout. Audiences on some nights will see alternate cast members Lachlan Ives (Jasper) and Jack Molloy (Leon).

The title role in this production is reduced to a supporting character. Alexandria Steffenson is an elegant and beautiful Medea, whose love for her sons is evident, and her pain tangible. We can sympathise with her, but do not forgive her for her actions.

The play takes place in the boys’ shared bedroom, on a realistic set, with lovely ring-of-truth details by Bryan Woltjen and Tyler Hill. Lucy Birkinshaw gives the single setting emotional impact with strong lighting choices, while Melanie Robinson gives us an organic and heartfelt sound design.

Medea is a beautifully told story, a great choice for lovers of the original Greek tragedy, but also for those who enjoy fresh, modern theatre.

Kimberley Shaw

Photographer: Philip Gostelow

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