13 Sep 2014

Medea - a supprising sister.

Medea.

 On Thursday last week I went into Inverness to see a live streaming of the last performance of  Medea at the National Theatre. What a thrill! We could even hear the audience in London settling as we sank into our own, extremely comfortable, seats. So exciting to be watching this without all the hassle and expense of actually traveling to London. 

I hadn’t read or seen Medea before although I knew the ghastly story. If it hadn’t been for the exceptional circumstances I doubt I would have wanted to put myself through the horrors of watching a mother decide to murder her own sons in pursuit of revenge. I certainly didn’t expect to have any sympathy with her. Before the performance we heard Helen McCrory say she didn’t think Medea was crazy or psychotic. I listened in disbelief. Half way through her  portrayal of this woman my feelings changed. 

Medea was not what might now be termed a sociopath. She was capable of love and compassion, sensible to the feelings of others, but she was temporarily maddened, unhinged, by an unbearable agony of grief and rage. She had been set calmly aside by a man whose sons she had born, and for whom she had committed dreadful acts - out of love for him. Quite unexpectedly, and rather uncomfortably, her emotion cut into some sludgy personal sewage long side sunken to the bottom of my consciousness but evidently not cleaned out. I realised that what I was feeling was not sympathy but empathy. I understood Medea. I felt what she was feeling.  I remembered once behaving like an animal in pain, lashing out at all around me in some desperate search for relief. 

Later I read the program notes. A psychologist says that the first six moths of marital breakdown are the most dangerous time for the children of that marriage. Killing them in revenge for the pain caused by the separating partner is not unknown.


The closing image of Medea dragging herself off into her terrible future, her own body bowed low, distorted, by the weight of the bodies of her dead sons was something I will never forget.

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