“The thing about it,” I say, on glass of wine no. 3, “Is that it seems really silly but I think it’s actually quite profound.” In the cold, dreary light of day, that impassioned description of Medea on Media at C Venues appears harder to defend than when I originally made it. Performed by the Korean company Seongbukdong Beedoolkee, the show takes Euripides’ original and effectively shoves it through one of those weird spiralizer instruments. Far from limp courgette, the result is a brilliant mishmash of pop and celebrity culture.
If you think Quentin Tarantino is a genius (which I do) and also very funny (which I also do) then you’ll likely find Medea on Media one of the best things at the Edinburgh Fringe this year (which I did). Like with Tarantino’s work, pastiche and homage swirl together in a bubble-gum pink soup. At times its all just for comedy, at others its genuinely very clever.
An alternative title for Medea on Media could be ‘Medea Gone Meta’. With on-stage costume changes, Pound Land plastic weapons and visible stagehands providing the pathetic fallacy rainstorm, the company play around with the artifice of performance. It would be possible to watch this show and see the joke as just being on the modern Age of Social Media. But actually, the unmasking of theatrical conceits and the ease with which the story of Medea can be re-told using ‘low-brow’ pieces of culture implies that the pedestal-placement of canonical works, including ancient texts, is just as much a part of the critique as all-guns-firing Hollywood thrillers.
In fact, the way Medea on Media reveals the falsity of many of its references (Jeremy Kyle-style talk shows, Disney cartoons and ‘empowering’ instagrammable yoga classes) whilst also taking them seriously enough to explore, grants a certain respect to them. If anything, the show makes it harder to revere Euripides in quite the same way as before. There’s a reason why Greek myths are often presented in the form of children’s books and that’s because, with their heroes, quests and last minute bail outs from the Gods, there’s a simplicity to their format that makes them perfect for co-opting into archetypes but less great for finding complex emotional depth in (I await correspondence from angry Greek scholars). Euripides, of course, provides far more that your average Myths and Legends: An Introduction, but the manner in which Medea has become more of a motif than a character makes it impossible to return to the original without it being filtered through centuries of reinterpretation and re-appropriation – which will now, after seeing Medea on Media, include Medea in aviators fleeing the scene of Jason’s death with a machine gun in hand.
Profound? That might be going a bit far, but it’s definitely a massive amount of fun – and it contains one of the best Tweety impressions you’re ever likely to see on stage.
Medea on Media is on until 28 August 2017 at C Venues. Click here for more details.