Medea Electronica is a thumping good show with a high tension wire running through its centre. It’s more than a gig, a bit less than theatre, an extravaganza with no shortage of drama.
The story adapts the ancient Greek myth about Medea and sets it in a northern town during Margaret Thatcher’s reign. It starts as an everyday tale of divorce. Jason has run off. Medea is left with two kids. At bedtime the children say: “There are monsters under the bed.” Dead right.
It’s a chaotic home. The teacher is ringing Medea about one of the boys: “We’re looking for the best way to support him.” The solicitor tells her that Jason wants sole custody. The tension wire is getting tauter. She wants to cover the kids in syrup and eat them up.
The show is written and devised by Pecho Mama, a collaboration between musicians and performers. The vocals of Mella Faye (of Big Band fame) are backed by Alex Stanford (keyboard) and Sam Cox (drums) who are on stage throughout. Six other roles are played by disembodied voices offstage. This works deliciously and adds to the sense of madness. These voices might even be in Medea’s head.
What inspired the show? Mella told us she was keen to portray a female character who had done something terrible. “The challenge would be to get the audience onside – the play breaks all the most horrific taboos.” The dark pop/progressive rock both created and enhanced the script. Mella explained that they “started by clapping Indian rhythms and the songs grew from the basslines”. The spin-off album is just out.
The climax is classic. A manic drummer. Billowing smoke. Poking lights conjure Medea in silhouette, bathed in blood red. The final tableau rightly brings a standing ovation from a packed house.
The Old Market, Thursday 16th March 2017
Words by Mike Aiken
Photo by Rachel Strange