Medea features a towering performance by Sophie Okenedo: a complex and nuanced Medea pitted against Jason’s fecklessness portrayed pitch perfectly by Ben Daniels The director, Dominic Cooke, has chosen a bold adaptation of Medea that lasts a mere 90 mins with no interval. What frustrates this adaptation is the directorial choices from what is already a very free adaptation by the late American poet Robinson Jeffers. The tragedy is that this play feels more about Jason.
Despite this adaptation having been written in the 1940s it still feels fresh and relevant to a modern audience. Cook’s decision to place the chorus in the audience dressed in modern clothes is inspired. It wasn’t apparent until they started speaking that they were in actual fact part of the play. It also means that when Medea is addressing them, it feels as if she’s actually addressing the audience.
My main issue with the play is that Jason is always on stage, or should I say the actor Ben Daniels. We see him first which is a complete departure from the adaptation and set the wrong tone. The play isn’t called Jason. He’s already had his glory capturing the Golden Fleece. Ben Daniels plays all four male characters sublimely. However, it’s the decision to have him walk in slow motion encircling Medea when he’s not in character that I found a distraction. It felt at times as if Medea was having to compete in a play that’s about her.
It is definitely worth seeing for Sophie Okonedo’s interpretation of Medea: a complex woman not only scorned but alienated.
Medea runs at the Soho Place theatre until 22 April 2023.