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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

MEDEA (article first published : 2002-10-10)

The classic Greek play Medea, now 2,433 years old as it was created in 431 BC, deals with a woman who is driven to commit two highly unnatural deeds as a mother. So tormented is she by her husband’s betrayal - particularly after she helped him acquire fame, fortune and the cherished Golden Fleece – that she extracts her revenge by killing their two small children.

The Department of Drama Studies at the Durban Institute of Technology is currently presenting Medea at The Courtyard Theatre until October 12. Set on a completely bare stage, all curtains having been removed and the steel loading door at the back providing a main focus point, it is a landmark in the already highly-innovative creative process of this department.

Lecturer Jay Pather, who is also the artistic head of the Siwela Sonke Dance Theatre Company, has chosen to take Euripides’ play and turn it into dance drama. He was assisted by Siwela Sonke’s talented Ntombi Gasa, with the full company contributing to the choreography

With the same groundbreaking and artistic astuteness that saw him present Cityscapes recently in various public positions in the city, Jay has extended the talents and abilities of his students to mount a powerful and dramatic piece. Building on a Cape Town production he worked on with Mark Fleishman and Jennie Reznek, he has further expanded the relevance of Medea to South Africa and, particularly, KZN.

The flashback to Medea’s earlier life sees her in a rural African setting, introducing an indigenous style to the choreography. The loading door is lifted so the audience sees right through into the darkness beyond – inviting much curiosity from passersby. One driver actually stopped his vehicle, put on his hazard lights and stayed to watch awhile, oblivious of other cars!

As the fiery Medea and her husband Jason, Dumisile Nqadi and Denton Douglas are well suited as dance partners and brought much emotion to their scenes together. Continually impressing with her stage presence, Natasha Hosken introduced a balletic style to the production as the spoilt and proud Creusa. Thandeka Malinga evoked much sympathy in her role as the Nurse.

The piece is danced to backing tracks with Thabani Sibisi providing occasional solo performances on the bass drum, although I would have preferred this to have been a traditional Zulu drum rather than its modern counterpart which lacked the solid thump offered by skin.

As the narrator, Andile Mngadi was a strong and guiding presence. Dressed in an ill-fitting and well-worn wedding dress to signify the sadness of a broken relationship, he is a powerful dancer and is to be commended for his professionalism in rising above the breakdown of his microphone.

Forming an interesting diversion is Bongi Chiliza’s fashion show, supposedly taking place in King Creon’s palace when Medea arrives to confront Jason. Storm Janse van Rensburg has created a fascinating video piece depicting Jason’s task to gain the Golden Fleece. Youngsters Mukelo Mahlaba and Ntuthuko Ncube acquitted themselves well as the two children.

Try to catch this production if you can. Book at Computicket, or phone 031 204-2194. Tickets also available at the door. – Caroline Smart




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