Review: Medea, @sohoplace

Ancient meets new as Sophie Okonedo and Ben Daniels electrify this stripped-back production of Medea at @sohoplace

“We’re Greek, we’re civilised”

My decision to dedicate so much time to the VAULT Festival this year meant that I missed a lot of openings in February and March and I’m fast running out of time to catch up on them all. One I was determined not to miss out on was Medea, the chance to see Sophie Okonedo and Ben Daniels in the burnished intimacy of @sohoplace unmissable, no matter the quality of the production.

Naturally though, Dominic Cooke has masterminded some sensational work here. With Vicki Mortimer’s sparse, elemental design and rumbling sound from Gareth Fry, the floor is opened out to let this heavyweight cast go at it – Marion Bailey’s Nurse opens the play with real feeling. Cooke also pushes the show out to the auditorium, where the three members of the Chorus are scattered.

Despite @sohoplace being still so new, this is a deeply traditional production in modern-dress clothing (the script from Robinson Jeffers dates to the 1940s). But that cast sells it – Daniels plays all the men, slipping from Jason to Creon to Aegeus and back with minimal fuss but maximum impact, and Bailey redeems her miscasting in The Crown with strong work.

Okonedo is just ferocious excellence from the off. Torn between vengeance and remorse, flickering between the two with astonishing speed, she’s mercurial and mesmerising. And if there’s not necessarily much surprise dramatically, there’s something so striking in the enduring timelessness of the message she relays so forcefully – when will society ever listen to or believe women? Stunning work.

Running time: 90 minutes (without interval)
Photos: Johan Persson
Medea is booking at @sohoplace until 22nd April

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