‘Medea’ was educational.
The high school audience is one of the toughest audiences to crack. The prove-me-wrong attitude of a rowdy bunch of high schoolers can be an oppositional force so strong even the greatest of performances can struggle to overcome it. This is what makes Shock Therapy’s work remarkable, through writing, acting, direction and design, Shock Therapy has the ability to overcome even the most too-cool-for-school cynical teens. ‘Medea’ is no exception.
Audience takes priority in every layer of the production. Shock Therapy’s Sam Foster and Hayden Jones, who direct and star in this production, understand that a large swarth of this audience are only there for their drama assignment. They are more interested in finding the central dramatic meaning for their upcoming essay than seeing interesting theatre. Being aware of this mindset and talking to it but still creating great theatre is what makes ‘Medea’ great.
The story is certainly your traditional Medea: a woman abandoned by her husband plots her vengeance before eventually killing her children. But what makes it interesting is not how it resembles Medea but the different choices it makes to connect with the target audience. From the opening, the whole show has been designed to meet the teens at their level. The actors come on stage not in character and introduce themselves before jokingly saying “We are going to tell you a story that’s old. Like Joe Biden old.” This humour allows the teens to connect at their level. A professional show that is for them and doesn’t talk down to them.
This professional quality is especially relevant in the design elements. Sound designer Guy Webster has created an atmospheric score that is tense and traditional but somehow modern and fresh. From a live guitar riff to synth style drums, the soundscape is fresh and engaging for all ages. Ryan Mahony and David Carberry’s lighting design is hauntingly beautiful. Splashes of red represent blood and the cold white light slowly diminishes as Medea’s soul is slowly darkened with her desire for vengeance.
But no matter what you do with the technical elements or the writing, ‘Medea’ is the story of one woman’s vengeance and if you don’t have a great actress at the centre, the audience isn’t going to buy it. Helen Cassidy is able to carry the role of Medea on her back and give the audience someone to both root for and against. Her monologue about the role of women in Greek society is haunting.
While the drama curriculum demands students study Greek plays, Shock Therapy brings the old stories into the present day and gives students a new opportunity to connect with the classics. While my high school drama experience may not have been positive, Shock Therapy brings a whole lot more to drama students in 2022.
‘Medea’ performed until Thursday, 21 April at the Logan Entertainment Centre and is about to begin touring Queensland. For tour locations and dates visit the Shock Therapy website.