Review: Medusa at The Lowry

  • NQ reporter Amy Stott reviews Medusa at The Lowry.

Proper Job Theatre’s performance of Medusa casts a light on everything we’ve been afraid to talk about, until now.

Writer Helen Mort creates an entirely new world, where Ancient Greece meets a futuristic society, but the difference in time only hauntingly perpetuates how attitudes towards women and sexual assault, sadly remain the same. Medusa is the second play in a trilogy about monsters, directed by James Beale, compelling us to look at the Gorgon from a fresh perspective. Why does Medusa become the killer that she’s so infamously known for being?

Her story is told by only five actors, assuming multiple roles and cleverly incorporates dance, poetry, live music and incredible singing into the hour and a half long performance.

Elizabeth Harborne stars as Medusa herself and takes us on a journey from being the confused and scared sixteen year old who’s been raped by Poseidon (Rick Ferguson), to her dramatic transformation in to the monster with the snake adorned head, who fights back against her abusers.

The costumes are inconspicuous; apart from Medusa’s flesh coloured body suit and her grand headdress, both covered in snakes – a drastic change from the plain clothes she wears during the first half of the performance.

The set is underwhelming upon first glance, but the way every inch of the small stage space is used, is quite innovative. Wire boxes remain on stage throughout the whole play, serving as chairs and the base of a vertical bed, which one audience member can be heard describing as ‘genius’ under their breath. There are costumes hung up on rails and keyboards positioned at the sides – maybe not what you’d typically expect to see at a theatre performance but nevertheless, it works.

The courtroom scene is particularly powerful, in which the line of questioning makes it appear that Medusa is on trial for her own rape. She is bombarded with questions such as, ‘Can you remember what you were wearing?’ as she stands like a deer in the headlights – frozen, wide-eyed, unable to speak.

During the scene, Mercury (Brendan Weakliam), badly applies a layer of red lipstick, puts on a pair of patent red heels and rolls his trouser leg up to reveal a garter, mocking society’s sheer hypocrisy and victim blaming attitude. The display provides a mere second of comic relief, and the audience chuckles, before rowdy cheers and clapping from the speakers fill the theatre and everyone’s attention is drawn back to terrified Medusa, as she’s taunted and shamed some more.

Towards the end of the play, character Alexander (Weakliam) is caught by his wife Sylvia (Gemma Hunt), watching pornography, after neglecting his family responsibilities. Alex chooses to become a slave to his desires as Medusa entices him back to her with a virtual reality headset, that he uses to see and speak with her, before he meets his stony demise for his ill treatment of women.

The play’s exploration of darker themes makes for an uncomfortable watch, yet its message is all too relevant in today’s culture, given the high profile cases of sexual assault being reported on recently in the media. It isn’t just a ‘must watch,’ it’s an important one too.