(Mark Fisher’s article appeared in the Guardian, 8/14.)
The Hub, Edinburgh
Liz Lochhead’s Scots verse spits wit and venom as male power meets female determination with operatic intensity, in this National Theatre of Scotland staging
Unerring … Adura Onashile as Medea with the chorus. Photograph: Jessica Shurte
Everybody is larger than life in Michael Boyd’s tremendous staging of Liz Lochhead’s play, still queasily contentious 2,500 years after the Euripides original. In one sense, this is literally the case. Tom Piper’s set is a catwalk that overshadows the audience as we stand like a mob gathered to witness an execution. Dissecting the main hall of the Hub, it compels us to look up at the actors, making us more like acolytes than equals.
Even the 10-strong female chorus has a grandeur. They emerge from within the crowd – a nice democratic touch – but when they climb on to the stage, talking as one, they too stand above us.
But, more than that, the protagonists in this bloody family battle are metaphorically large. No more so than Adura Onashile’s formidable Medea who, having been given a slow build-up in Lochhead’s rich and spiky version from 2000, emerges from a door in a rusting metal wall with an awesome authority. She achieves it not through grandstanding or histrionics, but an unerring air of certainty.
She seems to taste Lochhead’s poetry in her mouth, relishing each word, be it the grand statements of intent or the funny shifts in tone to sarcasm or deadpan wit. You can see why the locals regard her as an outsider, yet this is a woman who would stand out in any company.