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Medea | A Greek tragedy in the underground car park

25 March 2019
The Greek tragedy, ‘Medea’, was this year’s Senior School play. It was performed in the College’s underground car park, which might seem a bizarre place to stage a tragedy, Greek or otherwise, or indeed any kind of play at all. But there were two broad reasons for the choice of location. First, the play’s hellish, dank world of subterranean emotions is nicely mirrored by the austere, forbidding concrete of the car park and its cavernous, mysterious corners. And second, the staging of a drama in an unfamiliar setting ensures that its actors are alert, flexible and completely sensitive to their surroundings, and especially the ways in which they connect with the audience. Real estate agents say that the three most important things when buying a house are ‘location, location and location’, and while this might not be so literally true for theatre, it’s undoubtedly a factor. By removing the usual comforts of a stage, by taking away the proscenium arch, and by bringing the actors very close to their audience, a different and more intense process of delivering lines is demanded. It is acting in the raw – vital, stripped down and confrontational. To persuade the audience and remain persuasively watchable, actors must find something dynamic within themselves. And although the space might in this sense be challenging, it is also rewarding: get it right and the benefits can be stunning. Reaching into oneself and testing one’s mettle are, of course, important elements of self-development. To feel uncertain, to find ways around the reasons for this anxiety, and eventually to prevail – these are all important factors in determining character. But there’s something else, too. Someone remarked to me after the play that it mattered ‘deeply’ to him that he was working in a school environment where Greek tragedy could be staged in a car park. By this, I am assuming he meant it showed a kind of courage and a desire to do something different, which are marks of educational ambition. Without them, ‘Then darkness’, as Medea’s nurse says.