Saturday, July 13

Medea Gosperia – The Cockpit

I have a mild obsession with Medea, prompted by the realisation that there is not enough time to read, study and analyse The Classics, so probably wise to just focus on one banger until the coffin lid closes on my life. It was Rachel Cusk’s brilliant vision of the Euripides shocker at the Almeida which put me on this path. Kate Fleetwood’s performance and the entire production blew my mind.  It moved me as a piece of theatre, but also turned me on to the text. This nouveau fevered enthusiasm led me to the 1969 Pier Paolo Pasolini film with Maria Callas, which gave me full-blown Medea mania.

Medea Gosperia is presented as a ‘brand new jazz/gospel opera’ which in many ways, ticked a lot of boxes for me, but led to widespread hoots and horror when mentioned to my peers. It’s fair to say that jazz and opera can be divisive music forms, but everybody loves a bit of gospel, right? Anyway, I was up for it.

One has to give Thee Black Swan credit for this bold creative idea, presenting an old story in a new way, with flavours and styles that are unexpected and surprising. First up, full credit goes to the band who play live on stage and are evidently all accomplished musicians in their own right. They have come together as an ensemble and totally turn it out. At no point did it feel like jazz, which is possibly a good thing, and despite being pitched as having elements of ‘lovers rock’ the music felt like a fusion of gentle reggae with aspects of musical theatre and opera added to the mix. The cast leaned into these styles with varying degrees of success.

Amanda White (The Nurse and Chorus Member) brought Caribbean vibes to every scene she stole but was kinda isolated in her field. As a Chorus Member, she told the story with clarity and had undeniable stage presence. Namrata Shah (Medea) is a British Indian classical soprano and her performance in this production proved compelling, tragic, convincing and fierce. Her voice is beautiful, but she embodied the sour, livid and vengeful moods of Medea with fabulous authenticity. She was fuming right from the get-go, but also broken and understandably vexed.

The power and brilliance of Shah’s performance meant that Sandeep Gurrapadi (Jason) had a lot to live up to. He’s an accomplished tenor, with sensational hair, but ultimately didn’t seem worth killing one’s brother for. Medea deserves better, I thought, no wonder she’s angry. The cast did a sterling job of attempting to mix this cocktail of genres and musical moods, but it wasn’t as consistent or natural as it might be.

The audience at The Cockpit were perhaps more diverse that one might expect for a theatre production of an ancient Greek myth. Bringing in a live band of skilled funk and jazz players and presenting the show as a female fuelled fusion of cultures appears to have attracted a new audience to the play, which is a miracle in its own right. However, despite the vocal skills and musical tautness, it didn’t quite deliver the staging and narrative with matching professionalism.

Medea Gosperia is at The Cockpit until 20th July.

Reviewer: Stewart Who?

Reviewed: 4th July 2024
North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.