How old were you when you directed Medea?
I was sixteen.
What was it that drew teenaged Adena to Medea?
I know! Now, in retrospect, it sounds really overly tragic for a sixteen year old. It was just the piece that was on the syllabus for theatre studies. So I was asked to direct it. It was kind of given to me, like "here, would you like to direct Medea?".
So how did you approach the text? Was it Seneca or Euripides?
It was Euripides. I wish we had video footage of it. We actually tried to create something like a mini amphitheatre in the school gym. We didn't contemporise it or anything like that, it was quite epic. And it was just like a clash of styles, and Medea has Medusa snakes in her hair and she was behind this Japanese screen, and there was a live band on stage that were friends of mine - it was just a mash up of things, I had very little idea about theatre at all. We had a chorus - I was one of the chorus, there were three of us and there were a lot of choreographed actions in unison, all of the things I would never ever do now, but good that they're out of my system.
One of the things I'm trying to explore and come to grips with is how we relate to Medea as a character, whether we see her as sympathetic or the villain of the piece. Did you have a particular perspective on her? Or do you have a particular perspective on her now?
I think then I probably approached it in the way that one might approach a psychological or naturalistic piece, where you try to get underneath it and to understand. Now I see theatre quite differently. How do we relate to these tragic figures at the centre of Greek tragedy? I think on the one hand empathy is a huge part of our viewing experience because it's the thing that allows us to feel that catharsis at the end if we've engaged and invested. But at the same time I think none of those characters should be out to get your sympathy. Electra for example, or Medea also, they're much more relentless than that.
Did you have a feminist approach to it?
In our class, there were five girls and one boy, who played Jason, and everyone else played everyone else. I think we were, as a group of young girls, we were really interested in Medea. We were far more interested in her than we were in Jason, and that was kind of the centre of it. We were just excited about how to find a theatre language for something like that, and throwing all of our ideas in the ring. I don't remember us coming to it with a very critical eye on that front, but I also think times have changed. I'm working with teenagers now and they would absolutely bring that lens on to Medea. I'm doing The Bacchae with them and they're so across the gender politics of it in a way that I don't think I was, at all.
I was going to say, there's something about the idea of these high school students grappling with this epic myth that's so fascinating. The idea, at that age when you're still trying to get your head around how you relate to people in the same age as you, let alone how people behaved years and years and years ago.
I know, and I think this is how I remember it. I just remember the actual act of making the theatre itself being the really exciting part. I think teenagers have a great capacity to deal with these myths in a way that they don't even quite realise.
I have this question, why should contemporary audiences relate to Medea, but it sounds like as a teenager, you really did - and these teenagers you're working with do now?
In terms of a contemporary audience, these examples of domestic tragedy in our country and our world is such a huge concern. And the metaphors are completely equivalent, they're exact - we don't need to stretch that far to relate to these things. In a way, the Greek tragedies just give some kind of context, a way of understanding it or trying to grapple with it, which has some context as opposed to this actual violence that when it happens, you think "there's no way of understanding this, there's no meaning to it". The framework of the tragedy allows us to try to understand it in some way, although often they come up with no answers.