THEATRE REVIEW: Medea starring Sophie Okonedo @sohoplace

By Neil Durham


WHEN?: 25 February (matinee) and runs through 22 April 2023 RUNTIME: 90 minutes (no interval)

We’re in the front row of this intimate venue and Okonedo’s Medea points at us, locks eyes with us and asserts: ‘Watch and keep silent.’

  • Read on for reasons including how members of the cast sit in the audience and call out to those on stage in this production

1 of the best reasons to see this is how members of the cast playing a female chorus are sitting in the audience with us in everyday dress and, as they start to shout out and interact with those on stage, there is a real feeling that we are part of that chorus too about to witness something terrible.

Medea is 1 of the great female roles in theatre and is an ancient Greek tragedy written by Euripides in which the former princess of the kingdom of Colchis is deserted by her husband Jason who leaves her with their 2 children for a Greek princess of Corinth.

We write this shortly after the Olivier Awards’ nominations are announced and we’re surprised Okonedo’s performance didn’t make the list because she is better here than in Anthony and Cleopatra at the National and The Goat, Or Who Is Sylvia? at the Theatre Royal Haymarket.

We think this in part because we’re so close to the action that tiny details like the light shining on a tear forming in Okonedo’s eye as the consequences of the betrayal of her husband become clearer for her are so easily seen by us in this in-the-round venue.

As Medea reflects: ‘It’s a bitter thing to be a woman’ we think of others we have seen in the role, the late Helen McCrory at the National in 2014 with a Goldfrapp soundtrack, and Kate Fleetwood at the Almeida a year later, and we think Okonedo’s is the best because it is so engaging.

Ben Daniels (The Normal Heart, National Theatre) gives a selfless performance in all the adult male roles opposite Okonedo allowing her maximum opportunity to shine.

Like the Almeida interpretation, this is in modern day dress with Medea‘s sons eating ice creams at 1 point although it is far more successful in transcending its origins not least because of the aforementioned cast members in 2020’s dress are with us in the auditorium.

Director Dominic Cooke (the Olivier Award-nominated Good, Harold Pinter Theatre) allows us to get to know the children which makes – spoiler alert! – the impending doom of the play’s denouement all the more agonising.

The curtain of rain is far less impressive than that used in the National Theatre’s recent production of The Crucible, which we’re amazed is transferring to the West End, but far more effective we thought because it wasn’t an unnecessary distraction from the piece but rather added to its dramatic effect.

This was our 3rd production at the West End’s newest theatre and our reviews of them – Marvellous and As You Like It – agree it’s a magical, intimate space.

Revel in the intimacy of the venue but prepare yourself for 1 of the most devastating performances by 1 of this country’s most accomplished actresses.

  • Main picture via Facebook courtesy @sohoplace Tickets
  • Have you heard any of these songs or seen any of these shows? Let us know what you thought in the comments below
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