‘Medusa’ reviewed by Gorgon, sorry, Gordon the Optom

by October 18, 2018

‘Medusa’, is now a stage play adapted from the Greek mythological classic, and presented in several genres. This contemporary tale has been written by the audacious and adventurous, WA playwright and NIDA graduate, Finn O’Branagáin. Although only graduating less than a decade ago, Finn has already gathered a few awards and worked with some of the most prestigious companies in Australia.

In 2016, Jeffrey Jay Fowler guided Finn – with dramaturg and facilitation – in developing this work as part of the Black Swan Theatre Company’s Emerging Writers Group. Joe and Finn first worked together 3 years ago on ‘Selkie’.

This memorable theatrical experience has been produced by Natalie Di Risio, and is having its World Premiere in Perth. ‘Medusa’ is being presented as a fearless joint venture, between The Blue Room Theatre, and the multi-award winning, highly acclaimed post-avant-garde, Renegade Productions, who are both working in conjunction with the electrifying new feminist collective, Bow & Dagger; as they champion the voices of femme, non-binary, LGBTQI, as well as those of diverse backgrounds and experiences.

This wild and unfettered, 75-minute production can be seen in The Blue Room’s main theatre, at 53 James Street in Northbridge each evening at 8.30, from Tuesday 16th October to Saturday 3rd November.

There is no audience seating. This presentation is not simply ‘in the round’, but is an immersive theatrical experience.

 

The scene: An ancient Temple depicted as a heaving, clammy nightclub.

The set: designed by Ish Marrington is highly imaginative. There is a two-metre square, 30 cms high podium in the centre of the room. It acts as an altar from which the Priestesses address their gathering. It is laden with dishes of paint, healing stones and an assortment of baseball bats! In the corner is a similar 60 cms high podium that acts as a stage.

The floor is covered by blood trails. The black walls have areas of thin whitewash that look like net curtains; these act as screens for the videos and AV. Other props include a floor tom drum, and hanging from the ceiling is the Goddesses’ idea of a piñata. For her old age, Medusa had a special throne.

The exhilarating lighting design was by Kristie Smith. Although controlled from another room, the timing for some of the effects was still spot-on.

Clare Testoni, who is usually a writer, director, and puppeteer, has created the mindboggling and sagacious AV design. With the topic being the Gorgon Medusa, the AV had to contain snakes. The photos showed a line of brave and famous women from history. As the Priestesses chanted, the words were projected onto the walls, with a pantomime style ‘bouncy ball’ leading the audience through the lyrics. PLEASE feel free to join in and sing your lungs out.

The hard working stage manager is Chelsea Gibson.

 

       As you enter the theatre, fierce women warriors are singing and swaying. They are topless, with black knickers. The Sisterhood of Priestesses have their cult’s tattoo emblazoned on their backs. A primeval singer (Moana Lutton – tremendous) warmly welcomes us. She then introduces us to a beautiful Goddess – Medusa (Jacinta Larcombe – excellent), a fighting leader, and protector, who begs us to sacrifice.

       The Priestesses dance around the altar, chanting the fable of Medusa. They explain how she had been raped, and beheaded. The Sisterhood then swarms amongst their congregation (the audience members) as one of the Gods (Andrew Sutherland – well done) pounds on a floor, tom drum.

       A Priestess (Mani Mae Gomes – fabulous) explains how over the centuries, women have been slain purely because of their gender. She tells her sister nuns the tales of London in 1888, and of some brutal slayings. Another Priestess (Jessica Nyanda Moyle – glows) reminds us of a famous 1960 cinema death scene, before describing a present day murder in Melbourne.

        After each violation has been mentioned, a symbolic banana is crushed onto a granite rock.

        Now, with male personae, the actors swaggeringly boast of their exploits and conquests. One assaulted woman goes to see Perseus, but his randy and uncouth brother (Michelle Aitken – impressive) answers the door. On hearing of the woman’s distress caused by the sexual attack, he simply smiled and sneeringly suggested, ‘Don’t let a few bad minutes ruin your whole life.’

        As Medusa ages, she becomes aware of being ‘unnoticed’. Even after totally undressing, she is still ignored! A couple of decades pass and we see a dignified, but tragic Medusa (Sandy McKendrick -stunning) visiting a government office.      

 

Directed by one of Perth theatre’s nicest blokes, Joe Hooligan Lui, this play is not simply a wonderful piece of entertainment, but the magnificent, dedicated cast powerfully presents it. The players gave every ounce of strength, as they made this vigorous political statement. It is a ferocious wakeup call, against an unreasonable, patriarchal world.

The story and direction are uncompromising. By the end of the drama the cast are totally drained.

Curtin Theatre graduate, Jess Nyanda Moyle is also starring in Charlotte Otton’s highly successful ‘Let Me Finish’, which is in the Blue Room Studio. That show finishes only a few minutes before Jess has to appear in this second drama – true dedication. Outside the theatre, Jess regularly writes and performs light music with her solo act ‘nyanda j.’ and with a folk-duo, ‘Foetus & Fossil’. Likewise, Moana Lutton has a few years of singing on stage, having even made an album of her primal style.

Performer Sandy McKendrick, who has toured the world as an actor and puppeteer, has a strong interest in multimedia. Now, as the elderly Medusa and wearing a futuristic, audacious costume designed by Ish Marrington, Sandy proves that one can be old and still daringly beautiful.

This show is NOT for the light-hearted, but neither is walking in Perth’s city streets at night. Even as man wandering at night, I worry. As this ‘experience’ shows – and no one could dare to call such an intimate experience a ‘play’ – that as a lone woman I would be petrified!

Be warned: there is NO seating. It is noisy. It may be messy, so do not wear your best clothes! The actors are topless, so be respectful, but join in with the ritualistic shouting. No drinks in the auditorium.

Sacrifice your inhibitions, and join this latest, first-class creation from the wild minds of Joe and Finn. Who knows what to expect? Even Scott McArdle the publicist does not know!