Edinburgh Fringe 2011
Essentially, Hotel Medea is a trilogy over the evening and morning (it starts at midnight, and finishes around six) which fills in a lot of the backstory to the tragedy of Medea, as well as delivering a dark and uncomfortable rendition of the shocking events of the play itself.
It begins with a celebration: Jason has ‘liberated’ the Golden Fleece, with the help of Medea. One of the things that is made very clear early on is that Medea is a purloined exotic treasure as much as the Golden Fleece itself is. After some resistance, Jason ‘wins’ his bride. As the audience mill around (it’s a site specific piece), you are made to question with who you naturally side with as Jason’s army come in and ransack the place. This is a world of Alpha Males – Lots of sweat-slicked naked torsos and false grins.
When Jason’s team arrive, it’s immediately cause for concern, even when everything appears to be positive: the men and the women are pretty quickly divided, and Jason’s political party are full of smiles and well-meaning platitudes that almost immediately feel false. Pretty quickly, it becomes somewhat unsettling, as members of the audience are coerced into taking sides in what pretty quickly becomes a fascist state – led by smiling, charming Jason, a Blairite in the mould of Malcolm Tucker. There’s room for a lot of humour, too, however, even in the moments of concern, particularly in a sequence seemingly ripped straight from the pages of Orwell’s 1984, in which one section of the audience finds themselves having to spy on the other.
This all means that this genuinely theatre in which the audience takes place in – even if they don’t, their lack of involvement is threaded into the narrative of the piece. It might be that you as an audience member have decided pretty quickly who you want to side with (and it’s not an obvious choice), but the events of the play, much like the events in any political state – quickly overrun and overturn the choices you want to take, making much of the experience excitedly uncomfortable.
Those concerned that it’s going to be something of an endurance course should be aware: it absolutely is an endurance course: there are audience members who are already yawning uncontrollably even before the show has begun. But the evening/morning is perfectly pitched, with breaks in the narrative to allow you to get refreshments, and to turn off your attention for a while (it doesn’t occur until much later that these breaks are as much for the company’s benefit as for the audience), and moments of interaction reinvigorate you for the next section. There’s a moment, in which a portion of the audience become Medea’s children, in which it seems you’re allowed to have a nap. But there is so much going on, and the piece is so involving, that you really won’t want to.