Venue: Old 505 Theatre (Surry Hills NSW), Sep 15 – 19, 2015
Playwright: Saro Lusty-Cavallari
Director: Saro Lusty-Cavallari
Cast: Christian Byers, Lulu Howes
Image by Patrick Morrow
In Saro Lusty-Cavallari’s All About Medea, the ancient Greek mythological characters of Medea and Jason are transformed into generic versions of modern day “girl and boy”. We know little about them, except for their time together; their initial meeting, their pregnancy and marriage, and the eventual devastation that befalls their story. The breakdown of this relationship is the main focus of the play, but it occurs with little explanation. Jason is painted as the villain, but his infidelity is too convenient and his transformation to apathy unconvincing. It might appear that Lusty-Cavallari’s eagerness to portray Medea’s innocence in this sad state of affairs has guided him to a narrative that is far too simplistic.
Medea is an intriguing and dynamic character, but her legend’s value in feminist terms is debatable. It is doubtless that she possesses immense strength, but the sacrifice of her children is made, ultimately to punish the man who abandons her. Her vengeful obsession gives her her power, but in All About Medea, her implied purpose is to cause suffering to Jason, and then to win him back by her delusional attempt to turn back time. Her happiness depends squarely on the manipulations she can effect on her husband’s life.
Nevertheless, the production is an engaging one, with short and sharp scenes that manage to surprise within its purposefully conventional plot structure. Performances by Christian Byers and Lulu Howes are uneven, but the team’s easy and confident chemistry is an outstanding feature. There are some refreshing and subversive approaches to the portrayal of sexuality that will leave an impression, including its liberal amount of nudity at a particularly conservative time in our civilisation. Also, the play provides insightful commentary on youth culture in Australia, and on the trend for the formation of families at a significantly younger age than had been the norm in recent decades.
When imagining Medea as a modern woman, one would hope that society can afford her greater freedom to establish a life in accordance with her desires, but with much smaller reliance on her husband and children. The concluding moment of All About Medea is a controversial one that pushes its audience to reach for their own vision of alternatives that we wish for our heroine, and luckily, that task is not a difficult one.