Dream to stage Medea comes trueBob Eveleigh
Bob Eveleigh: Marlene's updated Medea adaptation, which runs at the Port Elizabeth Opera House from August 8 to 11, is a labour of love.
After many sessions of re-writing, Marlene Thomasse-Pieterse's long cherished dream of presenting a revised version of Euripides' classic tragedy, Medea, relevant to the present times, with her Stageworld Theatre School senior students, will come to fruition when Medea 2012 runs at the PE Opera House from Wednesday, August 8, to Saturday, August 11, at 7.30pm nightly.
As she told me:
"Medea 2012 is something that I've wished to present for a good couple of years and, at the moment, I am like a child in a bowl of chocolate mousse!! It is challenging, powerful and yet so relevant. The fact is that, after four sessions of adaptations, I eventually realised what I actually wanted to say with this vehicle.
"It really is payback time in Corinth and it is wonderful to watch the powers in this play constantly looking for scapegoats. Gosh, how we can identify with them. As you have noticed, I am enjoying myself and the beautifully talented young actors are doing so well but working their butts off!!"
Although a widely-experienced theatre professional and educator - she was Capab Eastern Cape's Audience Development Manager for years before starting Stageworld 13 years ago - Marlene is at her best working with young talent.
She has directed countless children’s theatre musicals at the Boardwalk Vodacom Amphitheatre and other venues and no less than 11 of the annual Showtime development revues and musicals since 2001.
While also quite capable of handling comedy and farce (such as last year's ATKV-PEaat Die Proponentjie), she has a particularly sure insight into drama and, especially, classic theatre, which, as evidenced by her comments above, she really enjoys directing.
Describing the work, the action in this Thomasse-Pieterse adaptation proceeds from the answer to a single question: "Is this the lesson that Euripides was teaching in 431 BC – a lesson our own society is yet to learn?
"So the plot is straightforward and a reflection of the world and its people as we know it today. What is so obvious is that we are masters at creating scapegoats for our mistakes, our choices. But do we accept responsibility for decisions? How easy is it to find someone and something to blame!" says Marlene.
"Medea marries Jason, sometime after his Golden Fleece adventures, and they live in Corinth, where life is about power and money. They have two beautiful little sons but Jason decides to leave Medea and marry the young daughter of King Creon.
"He explains to Medea that the marriage is to ensure more power and more money for them. Medea, however, learns that she and her sons will be exiled and is furious and humiliated; also knowing that she will not be allowed to return to her own country. She then kills her two sons, King Creon and the young princess, the new bride of Jason.
"This sounds like current violent entertainment – and it is: the same template, same problems, same distorted humour, same characters – this is Medea 2012! It is theatre of today – bold and to the point with the language and plot adapted to reflect today’s culture.
"And the company even dances to an eclectic score consisting of music from Rammstein, Sibelius, Il Nino, Mozart and Berlioz while I have made innovative touches to both costumes and décor.
This revision is not intended to dictate to audiences, according to Marlene, rather she and her young company are trying to hold up a mirror for all to have a very good look at the modern world and its people.
With choreography by Marlene's Stageworld dance associate, Donna McLaggan, the cast is led by Cuan Louw, back on-stage after a lengthy absence, and Khanyisa Sigwanda, as Jason and Medea.
Andrew White (after principal appearances in the PE Shakespearean Festival's Antony and Cleopatra and the Pemads Timeless revue earlier this year) and Megan van Wyk (fresh from her repeat role as the older Nina in Fiela's Child) play their alter egos.
Also prominently featured in the company are Donna McLaggan, Marcia Ntoni, Deon Strydom, Aarti Narotam, Peter Lee Ching and Anneke Groenewald, with a supporting line-up of young singers and dancers.
Marlene's final comment?
"We have designed this play to be a very powerful piece of theatre - fresh, different and for all!"
Sounds like just the stuff to test drama students' mettle …
MEDEA2012, adapted and directed by Marlene Thomasse-Pieterse, presented by Stageworld Theatre School at the PE Opera House, August 8 to 11, at 7.30pm nightly. Book at Computicket, with seats priced at R70 (adults), R50 (block bookings of 20 seats or more for high school learners).
Port Elizabeth Opera House, Port Elizabeth Eastern Cape South Africa