We talked to Festival regular Neil Bartlett to find out more about his sensational one-man re-invention of the classic Greek legend, Medea.
Written by Jean-René Lemoine, Directed by Festival regular Neil Bartlett and featuring extraordinary performer and vocalist François Testory, this powerful new vision of ancient myth features live music by Phil Von to create a searing statement about marginalisation and exile.
Firstly, can you introduce your show and tell us what it is about?
MEDEA, Written in Rage is a re-telling of the story of the most notorious heroine in world literature. She is the ultimate outsider – a barbarian, a sorceress – a woman who abandons everything for the man of her dreams – and then murders her own children. There have been many versions of her story, but this time, she is telling it herself.
How and where will the work be staged?
MEDEA, Written in Rage is a solo performance created by award-winning director Neil Bartlett. It is performed on a bare stage – but with incredible costume (Medea's gown is created by the legendary Mr Pearl), swirling lights and a live, improvised operatic/electronic soundscape created by Berlin-based DJ and composer Phil Von Magnet. The solo performer is the extraordinary Francois Testory – dancer and singer with Lindsay Kemp, DV8 and Gecko. The show is on at the Theatre Royal, and for one night only: the last Saturday night of the Festival.
Why should someone come and see your show?
Because it's a mesmerising piece of gender-bending solo performance; because it has so much of my trademark theatricality; because it's a roller-coaster re-telling of a powerful, primeval story .
Where did the idea and inspiration come from?
The script is an English translation of a brand new text by French playwright Jean-Renee Lemoine. As soon as I read it, I thought that Francois and Medea would be the perfect combination of performer and role. Francois has an incredible power as a performer – and he has both the look and the voice that this role needs.
Why do you think it’s an important story to tell?
Medea is the ultimate outsider. In this telling of her story, there is a powerful contemporary sense of her as a foreigner, an alien, someone forever being judged because she comes from elsewhere, from outside of Europe. That story has very powerful resonance right now. I was also very attracted to working on this particular story with a performer who works way beyond gender. I think that gives a very particular twist to the idea of the outsider, of she-who-must-be-punished.
What sort of person is going to love this show?
If you like your theatre theatrical, beautiful, transgressive and hard–hitting – if you like DV8 or Gecko or Schecter – or if you've enjoyed some of my own previous work at the Theatre Royal in past Festivals, such as my sell-out staging of Benjamin Britten's Canticles with Ian Bostridge, or my own one-man show of queer monologues – then I think you'll like this.
What’s going to surprise people about this show?
Maybe just how much power one person can have on stage – just how much one body and one voice can conjure .
What does Brighton Festival mean to you?
I love presenting my work at the Theatre Royal – there's always such a great connection between the audience and the stage. I love its weird, shabby glamour – that really hits my spot as a director. And the best thing about the Festival is always the audience – diverse, adventurous, up for anything. Especially by the last Saturday night ! I think this is my ninth Festival, and it's the audience that keeps on bringing me back.
What are you most looking forward to in this year’s Brighton Festival programme?
Well, I have to say seeing Francois make his entrance as Medea. It's quite something.
Find out more about Medea ticket availability.