EIF: Medea, The Hub, Review

Adura Onashile (Medea), with The Chorus and Robert Jack (Jason)
Rating (out of 5)
Show info
National Theatre of Scotland
Liz Lochhead (writer after Euripides), Michael Boyd, (director), Vanessa Coffey (intimacy co-ordinator), Colin Grenfell (lighting), James Jones (composer), Josh Robins (sound design), Janice Parker (movement director), Janet Lawson (fight director), Jean Sangster (voice director).
Adura Onashile (Medea), Robert Jack (Jason), Alana Jackson (Glauke), Anne Lacey (Nurse), Stephen McCole (Kreon), Adam Robertson (manservant); The Chorus: Lola Aluko, Leyla Aycan, Lindsey Campbell, Janette Foggo, Pauline Flockhart, Fletcher Mathers, Eileen Nicholas, Wendy Seager, Brooke Walker, Bea Webster; The Children (2 groups): Frieda Bazie Gilmore, Iggy Bazie Gilmore, Otis Bazie Gilmore; Kamsi Jibulu, Amari Tade, Samuel Jude Walker
Running time

What am I’, Medea asks Jason in a final bitter, brief encounter, ‘tigress, harpy, witch, she wolf, monster ? 

Yes, I am.’  

Facing the humiliation of her husband’s infidelity, she has been driven to retaliatory, murderous violence.  Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

In the majestic grand hall of the Hub, with a metallic gold and bronze design, most of the audience stand all the way around the long high catwalk of a thrust stage. The prologue by the Nurse paraphrases the central storyline with gallous Glaswegian humour: ‘She's chucked out like an auld coat that nae langer fits him.’

It was a masterstroke to cast Adura Onashile in the eponymous role, creating not only an elegant Queen-like presence but also a mixed marriage of colour and culture.  She makes a glamorous entrance dressed in a strappy black dress, cropped hair and gold hoop ear-rings. Like supermodel Naomi Campbell, her exotic beauty is radiant but beneath the warmth of her smile, she is furious with Jason’s blatant betrayal but supported by her feisty feminist posse of women, the Chorus.  

 “So your man fxxxs another.?  We are all survivors of the sex war…widows, divorced, mistresses, wives, we are women, we know men.  Punish him for us, Medea." 

With dagger sharp, sardonic, witty, colloquial, lyrical language, Liz Lochhead's adaptation focusses on the sorrowful humanity of the tragic tale in which fate is in the hands of men rather than the ancient Gods.

Medea is viewed as the outsider in a patriarchal society, abandoned by Jason, soon to marry Glauke, daughter of Kreon.  Like a corporate CEO in a blue business suit (think Brian Cox in Succession), he is a large pugnacious man, towering over her to explain that she and her children are banished from the country. But Jason and Glauke have other plans, ‘the children should stay with us.’  

Medea stands proudly expressing vehement dignity, women wronged in bed will seek revenge and "have your guts for garters."  Glauke, the pretty blonde fecund bride with child, plays the ageist card but Medea means business. Beware Greeks bearing gifts. Jason must lose everything he loves, 

When she hugs the three sweet young children before bedtime, she nearly loses her nerve as the Chorus plead with her to stop her ‘raging heart’.  

The clarity of storytelling is enhanced by the crisp diction by the entire cast, (in colourful, contrasting English and Scottish dialects), with poetic rhythm and pace. Soft lighting and the murmur of cymbals and ringing drums create a simple atmospheric soundscape and chilling mood. 

This is a modern masterpiece, reinterpreting the timeless Greek tragedy into 21st century feminist morality play.  While it’s difficult to justify her actions, centre stage throughout, Adura Onashile has a majestic, magnetic presence, oozing visceral power and sexual authority, in a flawless performance of passionate raw emotion. 


10 – 27 August @ 8pm. (not 15, 22); 14, 18, 20, 25, 27, 28 @ 3pm

Ticket price: £37.  (Standing places as well as limited seats in main hall and gallery.)