Medusa at The Cockpit

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Produced by Fusion Theatre Company and Global Hive Laboratories, ‘Medusa’ is a multidisciplinary performance piece created by an international ensemble of artists. It takes us on a journey through Medusa’s origin story, inevitably reflecting parallels with how women are treated today.

Enter our chorus, a cast of six (Rhiannon Kelly, Nell Hardy, Eliza Harris, Amber Savva, Jimin Suh and Jenn Geiger), who share duties as Medusa, handing her over to be played by each performer at pivotal moments in her story, in an almost ceremonial way. There is something compelling in this split casting of Medusa, as it provides a vivid image of her as both a focal character, and a female archetype (a damned woman as monster).

Music, song, movement, chorus and individual performances integrate to create a fluid whole, that inhales and exhales like a living organism. There is an intriguing transparency to the piece, as our performers introduce aspects of themselves to us, so this isn’t just about the story of Medusa, but also about the act of these women staging that story. There is a sense of taking ownership of the source material, and holding it up to the light so the truth can be revealed. Medusa is setting the record straight, but at the same time this reclamation of her story also belongs to the talented women performing in front of us.

Medusa, innocent maiden, violated by Poseidon, and punished by Athena for his actions, is stripped of her beauty, and forced to live an extended life as an isolated monster who kills anyone who catches her eye. In this retelling, Athena is as culpable as Poseidon. She remains silent and aloof even as Medusa’s two sisters plead for her mercy and understanding.  Director Katie Merritt uses movement, minimal props and a sparse set to evocatively bring this story to life. There is such an inspiring creativity evident in the staging of challenging scenes, like Medusa’s rape, and later her transformation into a snake-haired monster. It really is beautifully realised.

Every performance is captioned, which not only makes the piece more accessible, but also reflects back the words in a way that underscores their power. This becomes all the more engaging in a scene where Medusa, cast out by Athena, fractures and jumps from language to language, a truly global gorgon who exists in many cultures, and those different perspectives are brought together in this piece.

A clear feminist message sits at the heart of this show: Medusa is the vilified woman punished because a man desired her. By focusing on her specific story, and unravelling the sense of the universal within it, ‘Medusa’ provides a timely mirror on the world we live in. A world that continues to demonise women for the desire they inspire in others.

This thoughtful and fascinating performance piece runs at The Cockpit Theatre until Friday 6th March.

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