‘Medea’ review – Sophie Okonedo is captivating in powerfully paced production


Dominic Cooke’s 90-minute Medea is engrossing and electric. Cooke, who boasts an impressive catalogue of stagings such as the Follies at the National and Good starring David Tennant, is reunited with Anthony and Cleopatra actress Sophie Okonedo in a production of Euripides’ revenge play which – fascinatingly – manages to serve as both a slick slow-burner and fast-paced thriller simultaneously.

It sounds contradictory, but there’s a mixture of elements in this rich and vivid adaptation by Robinson Jeffers which experiments with pace. Three women of Corinth are dotted around the auditorium, thrusting our attention left, right and centre as they interject with their woes. Lengthy, descriptive exposition may feel a tad excessive (then again, it’s the Greeks we’re talking about here), but stretch out the play’s progression into darker territory. Thunderous sound and lighting design (by Gareth Fry and Neil Austin respectively), carries both an urgency and a warning that something far more explosive is around the corner. The tension is tantalising.

Ben Daniels (The Normal Heart) spends most of his time walking around the set’s circumference in slow motion, jumping into the action to portray the handful of male characters (such as the unfaithful Jason and unsparing Creon) as and when required. If not an interesting nod to how Medea thinks and schemes faster than the men in this tale, then it emphasises a sharp and intense lead performance from Okonedo.

As the protagonist wronged by Jason and exiled by Creon makes plans against the male “dogs” who have mistreated her, she gives a frantic energy to Medea’s contemplations while keeping her movements restrained and considered. It’s a significant contrast to the pleading, weeping Medea who first pleads for mercy from Creon. The sudden snap from the emotional to the calculating in keeping with the pace of the piece, the trembling to the self-assured, makes her chilling and unpredictable, and Okonedo’s performance utterly captivating.

Another example of the crackling energy is seen in Marion Bailey’s Nurse, lurching her head forward to give her scorn towards Jason more bite, yet still demonstrating some restraint so as to not overstep like Medea. There’s hints of anguish from Nurse at being an obedient character paying witness to such anarchy – much like the women of Corinth – and the idea of this collective being at pains to stop Medea’s warpath only further demonstrates the restlessness of this production. It’s a truly dynamic and devastating hour and a half.

Medea is now playing at @sohoplace until 22 April.

Audio described and captioned performances will take place on 18 March and 14 April respectively.

Production Images: Johan Persson.

Disclaimer: I was invited to watch ‘Medea’ in exchange for a review of the performance as a member of the press. I did not receive payment for this article and all opinions stated above are honest and my own.

Think Outside the Box...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: