New ‘Medea’ misfires

The National Theater’s performance of «Medea» at Epidaurus last Friday and Saturday, which drew hefty crowds on both nights, was a major disappointment. The letdown was in no way linked to director Stathis Livathinos’s daring approach to the ancient Greek tragedy. This kind of thing may offend certain purists stuck in «the good old days,» but not individuals who remain aware of the times in which they live and, subsequently, are prepared to embrace new interpretations of ancient drama – even at the hallowed theater of Epidaurus. The generally interesting incisions made by this worthy director and successful head of the National Theater’s Experimental Stage into the ancient drama were, however, undermined by a lack of dexterity and surfeit of hyperbole, and, primarily, by unexpected problems – considering the director’s track record – in the area of acting. The interpretations of at least two main roles, those of Medea and Jason, went astray. This is what prompted the greatest disappointment for theatergoers who were expecting to at least witness effective acting in a production by a director renowned for his ability to guide actors. Doubts began to surface early – during the prologue. Despite its needed joviality, the work’s opening lines cannot be stripped of carrying the onerous implications of the what lies ahead. But its interpretation was outright irritating. This was a situation that frequently repeated itself throughout the play, prompted by the way the director chose to guide the two leading actors, Tamila Koulieva as Medea and Yiannis Mavritsakis as Jason. Both are very good actors who could have given exceptional performances, as was hinted at in several scintillating moments during the play. But, for its greater part, the two were beleaguered, to an unbelievable extent, by pompous interpretations, continual screaming, and over-the-top mannerisms. It all amounted to being – incomprehensibly – a stark contrast to the production’s modern physical side, as ordered by the director and his associates for the stage sets, costumes, music and motion. There was the intent of providing the play with freshness and an avoidance of the beaten track which conflicted with the old-school bombast in the interpretations of Medea and Jason. The two do not mix. It was not, then, the modernity that irritated.