Marvelous World Wide presents
Product Medea 4.0
Photo by Ramon Pons Casadevall
Written and Directed by Sasa Rakef and Maja Milatovic-Ovadia
Cock Tavern Theatre
2 – 20 June 2009
A review by Colette Gunn-Graffy for EXTRA! EXTRA!
There’s no blood in Product Medea 4.0, no graphic violence or sexual assault. Yet, this modern ‘repackaging’ (as it were) of Euripedes’ tragedy is all the more vicious for its smiling niceties.
In this version, Medea is not only the murderous ex-wife of Jason of the Argonauts, she is also a product being developed by Medea Inc. Represented by a smirking PR man (Ishai Jacob) and a quartet of identically power-suited beauties (Victoria Grove, Laura Pradelska, Jo Faith, and Alexandra Thoros), Medea Inc. is described as perhaps ‘the world’s first charitable corporation’. Having successfully marketed courses in Compassion and How to Find Your Voice (particularly ideal for those who have been racially profiled), Medea Inc. is now turning to the tragic Greek heroine and anticipating great returns.
Though it may not satisfy Classical Greek purists, Sasa Rakef’s production is exciting and original. Essentially, the play is a marketing plan presented directly to the audience, who have been cast in the role of potential investors. Standing behind glass-topped podiums set with bottled water and ubiquitous laptops, the corporate representatives ‘sell us’ Medea, in all her tragic and universal appeal. Above all, they emphasise her victim status: as a foreigner, a betrayed wife and a single mother. When Medea (Nikki Squire), dressed in glittering crown and velvet gown, appears in person to deliver her own testimony and explain her circumstances to the investors, she cuts a regal and elegant figure. Unfortunately, this is not the image the corporation is after. It is left to the representatives of Medea Inc. to re-make the one-time princess into a pitiful madwoman.
At turns darkly comic, at others, horribly chilling, Product Medea 4.0 is more than a rehash of the concept of profiting from others’ pain. The play shows quite clearly how human values and ideals become commodities in the hands of corporate advertisers. Promising equal opportunities and compassionate treatment is not good practice - it’s good PR. Despite the corporation’s lip service to the ‘tragedy’ of Medea, its true ambivalence towards her is frighteningly obvious. The scene in which the calm and poised business women hold Medea down and, with little smiles and firm hands, strip her of her gown and jewellery feels as violating as a rape.
As Medea, Squire adroitly devolves from a rational, if troubled, woman, to a cowering, crazed animal. As her tormentors (each of whom is named ‘Jane’) Grove, Pradelska, Faith and Thoros are all fake smiles and empty condolences. The artificiality and lack of individuation of these corporate cut-outs is emphasised by Verana’s Meneses’ slick choreography, in which all four women express their enthusiasm with the same token gestures, the same sexualised ‘victory dance’. Tereza Merlini’s hip, yet cold, set design, complete with gold star on the floor and a disturbing black and white photo collage of Medea and her sons – represented by two freakish kewpie dolls – further heightens the effect.
Fairly short (just over an hour), Product Medea 4.0 wastes no time in making its point. Above all, it seems that in certain sectors of modern society, ‘victim’ has come to equal profit, primarily because they can be so easily manipulated. Yet historically, Medea’s renown lies in the fact that she was not a victim but a woman who acted of her own will. Though we may miss out on the totality of the original plot (partially summarised in the introduction to the marketing plan), Medea’s lines – all of them lifted from Euripedes – seem all the more defiant and, surprisingly, more sympathetic in her cold corporate surroundings.
Photo by Ramon Pons Casadevall
Box Office: 08444 771 000 / www.cocktaverntheatre.com
Tues - Sat @ 7:30pm
Tickets £10 (£7 concessions) / Group bookings of four or more £8
Venue: Cock Tavern Theatre, 125 Kilburn High Road, London, NW6 6JH
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