Following from their success with Lady in the Sheets in Michaelmas 2017, Khameleon Productions has put together an all-BAME cast and crew of over forty students to stage this adaptation of Euripedes’ tragedy. I was shown only a brief section of the show, but the raw energy and power which was emanating from the stage has already blown me away.
Historically, Medea has been a play which lends itself to voicing the challenges of marginalised groups. It has been reinterpreted in the past with a focus on the topics of migration, gay culture and feminism, and the nature of the story makes it clear why. The play sympathetically depicts the plight of Medea, who, after accompanying her husband Jason from her homeland to live with him in Greece, finds her position threatened by his intention to marry another woman to improve his social status. She then decides to take revenge through a brutal and bloody twist which rips the family apart in her struggle to take control in a patriarchal world.
Despite the sensationalism of the plot, Greek tragedy can feel somewhat stale if not handled with care, but director Francesca Amewudah-Rivers, alongside a brilliant choreography team, demonstrates her masterful execution of this form. Portraying the struggles of integration, womanhood and belonging, the script’s style marries well with Khameleon Productions’ fresh, updated angle on the story. The supposed “culture and justice” of Greece is contrasted with what is referred to as the “tribal swamp” from which Medea has come, raising issues of colonialism and migration within the all-BAME context of the production.
Charithra Chandran’s performance of Medea appeared somewhat reserved in the part of the play I was shown, but I could tell there was a vitriolic anger and resentment bubbling beneath the surface of her character that looks like it will emerge explosively later in the play. Joel Stanley provided an appropriate foil to her in his portrayal of Jason, dismissive to his wife’s expression of her concerns. The constant undercurrent of tension onstage is highlighted by a low, anxious string score running throughout, bringing another dimension of excitement and anticipation.
Gorgeous autumnal shades of red and yellow lighting bring out the interstitial nature of Medea’s character, since her lack of belonging is matched by a colour palette that suggests liminality. Coupling this design with the stark naturalism of using real trees to form the majority of the set brought out Medea’s feeling of otherness in her home environment. The simplicity of the black backdrop works effectively with this layout, drawing our eyes to the action on the stage.
The absolute standout element of Medea has to be the imaginative reconstruction of the role of the Chorus. Incorporating spoken word with a haunting version of civil rights anthem I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free, the Chorus is updated into a Hydra-like entity of multiple voices, bringing out the script’s concern with identity. Combining a talented group of singers with an energetic accompanying drum beat, the Chorus provides a creative portrayal of Medea’s struggle to make her voice heard. The spoken word element is a genius addition to the show, reimagining the role of the Chorus into a dynamic and fluid group who complement the stage action beautifully.
There are so many parts of this production which deserve complimenting. Medea is clearly the result of an incredible collaborative effort by an astounding group of BAME actors, crew and other creatives. Khameleon Productions have showcased some of Oxford’s finest theatrical talent. You won’t want to miss out on what promises to be a truly spectacular result.