Tuesday, 18 October 2016

My Mother Medea at the Unicorn Theatre

MOST people who’ve done the myths and stories of Ancient Greece will have come across that of Medea and Jason and the tragedy that unfolded in their lives.
However a retelling of their story is now being played out in a completely different way - from the perspective of their children Eriopis and Polyxenos in a new play My Mother Medea.
Set in the modern day it is being staged at the Unicorn Theatre and directed by rising star Justin Audibert.
It is the first time the 35-year-old has put on a play for young people and the first time he has worked at the Tooley Street theatre and he says he’s loving both experiences.
“It is the most unbelievable and fabulous place to work,” he enthuses. “It is so open and inclusive, a wonderful building and everyone is so passionate and enthusiastic about the work they produce here that you can’t help but get carried along with it! 
“The ethos is very much about making the best work you possibly can. It’s a brilliant atmosphere in which to work and I feel very lucky to be able to do so.
“The play too is fabulous - really contemporary and so it’s been great fun to work on it. It’s strange because I’ve done a lot of work with young people, directing them and so on, but never done a play before which is for young people - I’m really enjoying it.”
Written by Austrian playwright Holger Schooner, My Mother Medea is aimed at those aged from about 13 and up and set in a school classroom. 
Audiences will be seated at school desks as the two protagonists, Eriopis and Polyxenos, take to the stage as the new kids at school.
They have just moved to the area, and, like refugees, have escaped from another country far away to a country where they are not sure they are wanted.  
And on top of that their parents are incredibly famous and possibly not the best parents in the world. They sit at the front of the class and tell their story of how it feels to be on the run and not know what home means anymore.
“It is wonderfully written, dark but funny and takes the epicness of their story and makes it domestic, contemporary and accessible to a young audience,” says Justin. 
“Setting it in a school is genius - we all know that thing about being the new kid at school, the anxieties, insecurities and frustrations of been a teenager and how brash they can be and you get to see that up close.
“It’s also an immersive experience with the audience very much part of the action - they sit in the classroom setting with the two characters who interact with them, hurl insults at them and each other, bicker and discuss their situation. 
“The audience is with them throughout and those moments when they really tear into each other you are part of that experience.
“In so doing they bring to life not only that it’s really tough being a teenager with all those hormones racing round your body and all the social pressures they have to deal with, but also to be a refugee, someone who has been uprooted from their home, gone from pillar to post and into a place and a school they don’t know. It is a crucial stage in a child’s life and they have all this to deal with.
“Not only that they have a dysfunctional family life - audiences will see two teenagers who have been neglected by their parents, where all they’ve ever known is cruelty, and the audience can see what that does to them - so there is so much going on and for people to relate to.
“Any teens who come and see the show will definitely see elements of themselves in those two characters - but I think ultimately it has heart and a touch of hope in it and I don’t think the audience is under any impression they are not normal people in an extraordinary situation. 
“So while they may have flaws they also have a wit and intelligence and deep down they are both incredibly vulnerable and live for each other. And you do see their humanity and that they are motivated by affection and love for each other.”
Justin says he was keen to direct the play because of his love of history and particularly this period as well as the quality of the writing.
“Purni [Morell, artistic director at the Unicorn] sent me the script and I loved it,” says Justin. “I did classical civilisation at A Level and am drawn to epic stories - and this is epic!
“The writing is terrific and it’s also thrilling and there is a visceral excitement as well as a terror like being on a rollercoaster. It appealed on so many levels.
“And to be able to work here, at the Unicorn, has been an amazing experience. They understand so well the power of theatre on a young audience.
“I hope audiences who come and see it get as much out of it - so far we’ve had a great response!”

My Mother Medea runs at the Unicorn Theatre until November 25. Tickets cost £10 for children and £16 for adults.

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