“Some of it I really liked and some of it I thought ‘What the Fuck’!!!”
I think the reaction of one audience member reflected the view of many who saw Medusa, part of the WTF Womens Theatre Festival at Circa. This one is art, rather than entertainment.
My viewing companion helpfully threw out adjectives: “bold”,”different”, “some real belly laughs early on”, to which we agreed we could add “confronting”, “a choreography of anger”and “at times deeply unpleasant, on purpose”.
The play includes large tracts of silence, cacophony, harmonies, mud, sledgehammers, the interweaving of voices, and an ever-present faint electrical hiss of live microphones, that’s there, very subtly, from the outset, evoking Medusa’s snakes.
The three actresses began the play sitting on chairs, eyes closed, in silence. At some point the audience responded to a cue (not sure what it was TBH) and we all quietened down and looked. And looked. And looked. And they looked back. We listened. And looked. And so did they. In the near-silence micro expressions flitted across their faces, as they paid intent attention to the environment – cued by sounds, sighs, and movement from the audience, with the odd belly laugh. It was weird, and funny, and disquietening, The quietness and stillness forced you to be present, away from the distractions of entertainment, and to notice what you were noticing. Like a faint electrical hiss, barely audible at first, but growing and changing, representing Medusa’s snakes.
And then it was really really loud (ear plugs are offered, I regretted dropping one of mine), and then some weird intermixture of sounds, and pulsating noise, to an interweaving of three voices in unison, playing with language, taking on the tropes of Joseph Campbell, and the conventions of theatre, and how things are supposed to be. From there, well it’s indescribable – the show became non-verbal and discordant evoking depression, anger, rage, complete with sledgehammers and primordial sculpting of bodies in mud. And still the hiss: the snakes, of the hair of the titular character.
In some ways it was quite brilliant: challenging, fearsome, funny, clever. At other times (mostly non-verbal and loud cacophonic times) I longed for it to end. I suspect it is the closest theatrical experience I’ll get to having the experience of post natal depression, or being in a pit of snakes. Again, that was rather the point.
This isn’t in any way a comfortable show, and I suspect I’ll keep reflecting on it, and seeing cleverness and appreciating it more from a distance. Looking around the audience at the end, there were some politely applauding, and some whooping in appreciation. Your Mileage Will Vary.