The Most Difficult Plays – n° 7/8/9.
No no, I’m not kidding. There are so many different plays called Medea.
I prefer three, the three versions of three incredible playwrights.
Euripides – Seneca – Corneille
Medea is still a bit played.
That doesn’t mean it’s not a horribly difficult piece.
Well, the subject is special.
Medea is – a little – special.
It started so lovely and unicorns and butterflies : a man – a woman : an incredible love. Children. Respect. A perfect life in a perfect world. And then… Then the man met another woman. I know, it’s sounds classic.
Medea, on the other hand, isn’t too classic.
As history is happening among the Ancient Greeks, there is no lace to soften it.
We are in the myth of the Argonauts – you know: The Golden Fleece.
The hero is Jason. He got the Golden Fleece. And he got Medea with him. Medea has fallen absolutely in love with him, so much so that she will kill (badly) her brother to save her lover, and betray her father.
So we’re in a passionate love story – with a heroine who doesn’t hesitate to fight like a guy and kill if necessary – to protect her beloved.
It’s beautiful, isn’t it?
But you see… few years later….. Well : Jason falls in love with another woman: she is the daughter of the King of Corinth.
Jason repudiates Medea, his first wife – and sees himself becoming a future King.
Medea and their two children are condemned to exile: the others will be left alone, quiet and happy.
Medea wasn’t just jealous. She wasn’t just violently possessed by the desire to gut her beloved husband whom she loved so much. Gutting slowly, one small piece of gut at time – if you’re going to do it, you might as well do it well. Afterwards, it’s disgusting : there is blood everywhere, it’s a hell to clean.
She was a magician : she could have turned him into a earthworm (have you played Worms ? – pardon) and put him in the sun – give him to a short-sighted chicken to peck at – cut in half and sent him to bait the fish.
She had a lot of solutions to realize her revenge, and soothe a little the wound of pride that this creep she had loved had just inflicted on her.
Are you already horrified?
You are far from it.
This girl is worse than me.
She wanted him to suffer until the last moment of his life. That he suffers without any possible respite. That he never forgets.
So he shouldn’t have to die. Above all, he had to stay alive and whole.
And that’s when she becomes a monster.
To make him suffer like a demon
So that he regrets his eyes on another woman,
Medea, very logically, removed from the world what their love for each other had created: their children.
The classic wife kills the husband. Medea kills the children. On stage, we hear their voices begging their mother to spare them.
No child will survive.
There have been many different versions of this myth.
The first versions, by the way, do not say that Medea kills her children. It comes later – as if the story has reached maturity.
The difficulty in staging this piece is obvious: this character is an absolute monster.
The fact that Jason is a creep doesn’t change anything, because she goes so far beyond him in the horror that we end up feeling sorry for him.
(By the way – but it was obvious, Medea starts by killing her rival: one shouldn’t exaggerate, a monster is still human, after all.)
We are in the 21st century, to propose on stage a woman like her increases the scandal even more.
And then I know… all the gimmicks and speeches around “the woman”… only increase the difficulty.
But as I am one too, this difficulty doesn’t scare me too much.
And I find this character interesting to propose at the moment, because she embodies to the maximum all the hysteria we see, nowadays, in love relationships.
Medea exists for that reason: to show everyone – women and men – how violent love can be, how it can devour us, how it can lead us to its exact opposite: a hatred so violent that innocent people are massacred.
The Greeks called this: Catharsis – purge the spectators of their madness by giving them to live, for the time of a play, this madness deployed at its paroxysm.
I’m very bad at explaining to others how to love – I’m horrible at love affairs.
Nevertheless, I am interested in the subject.
And that I can only see & hear the more or less long-term destruction of all “pretty couples”. Almost all of them.
Fortunately. Phew, unicorns and butterflies are still a bit there.
But for the others, it’s not the same song. For the others, it’s the song of jealousy. The song of : “You don’t love me, I know it“. The song of, “Ah yes, I’ve become ugly, you don’t love me anymore.” “Ah, you only loved the money I brought home.” “You only think about yourself – and I worry and you don’t care”
… the list is even longer than a Tolstoi novel.
The song of reproach, in all tones, in all scales, which inevitably leads one to look elsewhere if one doesn’t meet someone more… understanding? less … immersive? Someone who would know how to love us and leave us free to live – in short, I think you know this song, which is ugly, ugly ugly.
And Medea, who could have left like a queen, with their two children, without turning around, without giving him a tear or a cry, Medea let herself be carried away by the violence of her love.
Because the posture of the queen is only a posture. We only leave like this when we weren’t – or no longer really – in love.
The lesson of this play is terrible: if you are not strong enough to love and be loved, don’t love. Love a little. Not too much.
But of course, when it comes to feeling, especially this one – no lesson works before. That would be too easy.
That’s why I love theatre – and literature. It saves me from staying in my tiny little head with my tiny experiences. I learn to listen to others and realize that I am not at all unique and unbelievable.
These very large pieces that are so difficult to perform are only because they are very human. And it’s often ugly, a human being, when you look inside and believe that you are different. The worst thing is when you realize you’re not so different. These heroes are just more violent and ‘whole’ than we are.
And for that matter, if ever Medea arrives on the stage, let her come in full, with her three versions by her three great authors. S’il vous plaît. For pleasure, if not for fun – Medea is not fun, I have to admit.
Of course, there is also an opera – which is… good.
Featured Image : Rosalind Plowright plays Medea : she is a wonderful Medea, isn’t she ?
Well, okay. Tomorrow I’ll look for a light subject. The hot, the cold, the sad, the happy, the whole range of our emotions must be in a theatre.