Friday, 15 March 2013

A Night with Medea - Roman Amphitheatre comes alive!

The set of Medea
The first performance for nearly 1900 years took place in the Roman Amphitheatre at the Guildhall Gallery last night. It was an exceptional moment.

What remains of the amphitheatre (AD120) is the eastern entrance with the stonework remains on the left (when facing the stage) of a possible animal enclosure and mirrored to the left an anteroom which is presumed to have housed a small temple, a place of contemplation and offerings before entering the arena to perform or die.

The audience is seated in the 'entrance' way with stacked rows at the back.  A colourful stage, Pompeian inspired, golden columns set off by blood red walls (appropriate as to what unfolds) in the semi circular area in front of the viewer.  As the programme states the audience is part of the play, you are participating either as a Roman Briton in the Londonium amphitheatre or an Athenian watching a Greek tragedy.

A classical performance in ancient ruins a perfect space. I have not studied the Classics or seen any of the plays performed so this was truly a first. This production has endeavoured to present the play as the author (Euripides) intended and has included the conventions of Greed tragedy to present something closer to the original first performed in 431 BC in Athens.

The masks and costumes are inspired by wall paintings, mosaics and vases. The whole cast wear masks,  I only have admiration for the actors (all male) who have to speak and sing through them. The masks are ugly and fascinating all at once, you cannot take your eyes off them. Ross McNamara as Medea is astonishing, it takes a few minutes to get used to the mask, the hair, but the body language as the play progresses is engrossing.

Traditionally there would have been fifteen men in the chorus but the confined space does not allow for this! However the chorus of four was sufficient and are the tool by which the playwright informs the audience on how they should react to his characters. Beautiful voices and you really sympathise with them when they realise there is no stopping Medea. There is a musical accompaniment which is haunting and emotive.

Thoroughly good night out and hope there will be more performances of Classical plays. Sadly there were quite a few empty seats, which is sad as I know there were people enquiring earlier in the day to buy tickets. If you want to see the performance and do not have a ticket get there for 7pm and see if there are 'no shows'.

Downside, there was a function going on somewhere in the building which could be heard through the wall, this was only for the first 20 minutes, but distracting. Also 'theatre' staff need to be quieter, perhaps with practise they will get used to their new role as 'ushers' in (of) classical drama.

George Dance the Younger Porch
at Guildhall

1 comment:

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