What drew you to that particular production of Medea at Belvoir?
The director Annie-Lou Sarks came and met with me. We were just having a talk about it and she explained her vision for it, which was to show the whole story through the eyes of the children. And that felt really great for me. I just remember how vivd the snapshots of my parents were when I was a child, of whatever drama was happening. It was snapshots, it wasn’t an immersive experience, you saw it as fleeting moments – my mum wearing sunglasses because her brother had died, moments of drama that were crystallised into these images. And also, we both shared an absolute fascination with stories about parents who killed their children. And in particular was the man who had thrown his daughter off the West Gate Bridge. And she and I both remembered the same quote – after he’d done it and gotten back in the car, her little brother said “You have to go back for Darcy, Daddy, she can’t swim”. So that was when I said yes, I want to be a part of this.
Was there something about Medea as a character that you were interested in? An icon? A symbol?
It’s an iconic play, I found the play fascinating. That combination of power and completely unhinged mania, I found that really fascinating as well. I suppose. I really like characters that do things that you think aren’t explicable, whereas I feel like everything is.
How do you see that final act? It’s so horrendous and heinous. But do you relate to her, as a sympathetic character in terrible circumstances or do you see her ultimately as the villain of the piece?
I sort of see it as a sad story, a tragedy. I was very aware that while I certainly know women and I could understand how you could feel this way, I don’t know anyone who’s killed their children. But I know people who’ve said, "you will never see your children again" and fought their husbands through custody courts and the like just to make sure they cut their children off from their partners. I feel as if it’s the same thought, acted out differently.
You are a mother. How does that change the way you approach that character and those relationships?
Well I know that that sacrifice that she made, how horrendous that would have been. That that can’t ever be easy, that I wonder whether when people kill their children, and they care about their children, I wonder whether that’s in fact because they are everything to them. That that’s behind it. Do you know that I mean? It’s not that their kids are nothing, it’s that they are everything.
You were saying before about the snapshot nature of the production. How was that as a challenge as an actor? To convey that relationship with the children and narratively justify, or at least lead us up, to that final decision, with such limited stage time? How do you work with that?
I don’t know! Annie-Lou and I decided that the off stage world had to be endowed with everything that happens in the play. Which we can’t act, but we had to bring on everything that was happening as if there was another room. So really that was her job. I would just do a lot of solo work – inner monologues and music and things like that. I feel as if, in terms of that production of Medea, when terrible things are going on in adults’ lives, children are just put to the side or put in front of the television. They were such fantastic kids, it was pretty easy then to relate to them. And there was very limited rehearsal time for me too. They rehearsed and workshopped for a long time and I came in for the last three weeks.
So it was a very quick process overall?
Yeah and that was really up to Annie-Lou and Kate Mulvany. They structured it really well.
Why do you think that story keeps resonating? Why do contemporary audiences keep coming back to Medea? Why do contemporary theatremakers keep staging it? What was it that resonated with you?
The idea of people doing horrendous things, that people just do, that you don’t have to be evil or especially unhinged to do something terrible. But I think it’s one of those pieces, those texts, where you can do a feminist reading and a psychological, psychiatric diagnosis of it, and that’s why it keeps coming back. All those powerful stories, like Hamlet, or any of the classic Greeks that keep coming back because we feel like there’s another angle to look at it from.
So the same story is being constantly reframed?
It's interesting seeing the different ways people have reframed it. I spoke to Wesley Enoch about his Black Medea which just had such a fascinating angle through the Indigenous spirituality, that otherness.
See that's the thing, isn't it? We were so determinedly and doggedly domestic about it. But then you look at what Wesley did with it, there are so many ways that you can string out a narrative from that same myth.