Transferring from Ovalhouse, new company Pecho Mama bring their modern retelling of the classic Medea tragedy to the Pleasance Theatre. Tom Ward reviews Medea Electronica:

A story about a women seeking revenge on her unfaithful husband, Pecho Mama use gig theatre to funnel classic Medea tragedy through their unique style of music, a combination of progressive 80s rock and modern Electronica. But what this new company have cleverly done is to rewrite a classic into one that is fundamentally about a person having their livelihood and family taken away from them, and the lengths that they will go to reclaim their autonomy and dignity. Behold Medea Electronica.

Medea Electronica Pleasance

Mella Faye (image courtesy of Rosie Powell)

Set in the 1980’s on the backdrop of the Thatcherite political turmoil, before the use of the internet allowed us to become all too connected with the outside world, Medea (Mella Faye) proudly takes the role of the traditional house wife. Her husband’s choosing to live with another man is all the more painful for her because, at his whim, she is left potentially homeless.

While this seems like a logical reason to want to murder your children (spoiler), what adds to the drama is Pecho Mama’s interrogation into the mental state of their central character. The direct suggestion that she is not all as she seems means that the audience are forced to challenge their own preconceived notions on the story they are being told.

Is Medea a helpless women at the mercy of her savage, soon-to-be ex-husband, or is she abusive, controlling, and mentally unstable?

The audience are made aware of the perspective they are being shown so that they can take full advantage of the power play occurring with the text. Medea is the only character physically present on stage – Jason (her husband) and the children are voice recordings. All of this serves up a refreshing take on such a well-known text.

Alex Stanford

But where Medea Electronica shines is the music, the value that the gig theatre genre adds to the drama. The ability for its synthetic sound to both dig deep into Medea’s consciousness, and to effectively convey those emotions to its audience, is wonderful. Medea’s inner world is tumultuous, frantic and disjointed, and the soundtrack perfectly establishes a connection with her struggle through more than words. The text is woven through the songs with such detail that one becomes an extension of the other, allowing us further insight into Medea’s world. Simon Booth’s fantastic sound design layers distortion and effect onto Faye’s voice at the perfect moments, adding a wealth of richness.

It is needed. Without the composition and Booth’s design, Faye’s portrayal of such a difficult character is pretty monotone. A shame given the fire and power she possesses when performing the songs. If as much detail is put into the acting as into the sound design and music, Medea Electronica will be a powerhouse production.

Medea Electronica Pleasance

Mella Faye (image courtesy of Katrina Quinn)

In rewriting the classic tale, Pecho Mama bring its titular character down to earth. She becomes relatable because of her excruciating isolation in a time before the internet. And there is no denying the power of that synthetic sound. Electronica and 80’s progressive rock might not be the first soundtrack that you would put a classic Greek tragedy to, but it sure does pack a punch.

★★★★☆

Medea Electronica played at The Pleasance Theatre until 24 February 2019. For more information or to book tickets, please visit the venue website.