Dispatches from the Fringe – #3
Medea – so that’s what all the fuss is about. This is a top-drawer cast and crew, in an accomplished production of one of the classics of Greek theatre that deliver a thoroughbred theatrical experience. Last night’s performance looked to be a sell-out and it was always going to be one of the Fringe highlights. Writing in this paper’s Arts pages, Peter Crawley said “The compelling, unsettling power of this Medea is that it folds beauty and horror into the same moment.” He’s not wrong.
The classics are always a difficult prospect. A few hours of your life will rarely seem longer than when you’re trapped in a dark room with a poor adaptation of one of the Greek theatrical canons. That is not the case here, even if this is not a perfect production. The first half of the play drags its feet slightly; occasionally the script seems to run on a little, and it takes a while for the fury and the jealously to make its presence felt. But by the same token those new to the plot will have no problem staying abreast of the twists and turns.
The second half, though, is a furious, blood-letting riot that ends with some fairly spectacular menace and rage. Cartmell’s direction is terrific, the final scene with Medea sphinx-like and up to her arms in her deeds, sends chills rattling down the spine as the plot and the set unfold their final tricks. An enormous amount is demanded of Eileen Walsh in the lead role, and she fills the role with bitterness and anger; Olwen Fouéré represents the women of Corinth, and there is something about her voice that makes it easy to forget there is anyone else in the room, on or off the stage.
This, then, is definitely one of the best productions in town. But, as I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, it seems to sit strangely in the Fringe programme. The cast are almost all deeply familiar faces, as are the crew and production staff; this play would sit easily in the Abbey on an extended run or, more obviously, in the imminent Dublin Theatre Festival. It’s wonderful that the Fringe has brought such a polished production to the stage, but it does seem to sit oddly among the other, more experimental theatrical offerings. Or maybe that’s just me.
Over in the Project Arts Centre, meanwhile, Jerk was closing out its run, and by all accounts it’s been surrounded with the kind of divergent audience reactions that are more familiar from the Fringe. The show is a re-imagining of a serial killer’s crimes using puppets. There has been more than one ovation, but there has also been more than a few walk-outs – but given the subject material, you could wonder what people thought they were letting themselves in for. Peter Crawley was fairly unimpressed – he gave it two stars, saying that “Jerk is appropriately sickening but its effect carries no deeper meaning … If Jerk wishes to show that artificial means can draw genuine revulsion the point is well proven. But without insight or ethical responsibility, to what end?” Indeed, Peter has written a bit more in today’s page about Jerk in the context of when it is polite to leave a show you truly abhor. So have you seen Jerk? Did you love it, or leave it before the final curtain? Let us know below.
Also on today’s pages are my review of Cactus: The Seduction, Joono Katz’s one-man comic tour de force that I reckon will be an audience favourite. Peter Crawley (the man is a reviewing machine) is left cold by what he sees as a missed opportunity by Diet of Worms and their play, Strollinstown. While Sara Keating finds the intensity and brevity of From The Heart hard to shake off. You can read these, and more of our Fringe coverage, here. Your thoughts, as ever, are welcome below. We might even reproduce them on tomorrow’s Arts pages, so unsheathe your wit, Fringe fans.