Tom Paulin produces Northern Broadsides' new take on Medea
Barry Rutter, artistic director and performer for Northern Broadsides, is what you might call Medea savvy. In bringing this touring version of Euripedes' greatest tragedy to Scotland, he has plainly thought carefully about both the locations in which the piece will play, and the way that a 2500-year-old tragedy might be deployed to contemporary effect.
The story of Medea, a woman brought to a foreign land, abandoned for a new woman by her husband and threatened with further exile, might have a certain contemporary relevance. Her decision to slaughter her own children as an act of revenge might also strike a grisly kind of chord. ‘It happened today with a woman from Birmingham,’ Rutter comments. ‘It’s not something that stops. We’ve seen the same stories re-enacted again and again in the media. The stuff of human conflict is always contemporary.’
More immediately, Rutter has turned to one of the foremost poets on these islands, Tom Paulin, to produce this version. Aside from having a distinctly local sound, this piece promises a certain authenticity to the play’s ancient origins. ‘The language is very spare, as you’d expect from Tom. I encouraged him to go that way, it kind of compliments his poetry,’ explains Rutter. ‘It’s not over flowery, because I don’t like to go that way anyway with all that Victorian hangover about language.
‘The short sharp word is much more percussive and passionate, and it sounds more like ancient Greek. Theatrically, they spoke in masks, and you can’t speak too many vowels in masks, so it’s much more like how the original would have sounded, I think. Besides, all of Northern British sounds, from Yorkshire, right up to the North of Scotland has these short sharp vowels, so the pronunciation is more like Ancient Greek.’
Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, Tue 9–Sat 13 Mar