Rising playwright Mike Bartlett talks about his newest adaptation, Medea
The play will star Tipping the Velvet's Rachael Stirling in the title role
Mike Bartlett has gained a reputation as one of Britain’s most exciting young playwrights, with original plays like Love, Love, Love and Cock. But in 2012, he’s been focusing on adapted works: first with his stage version of Chariots of Fire, which opened at the Hampstead Theatre in May, and now with a contemporary take on Medea, which premieres at the Citizens Theatre this month and is co-produced by acclaimed theatre company Headlong.
This project wasn’t born out of a deep-seated love for Greek drama; instead, Bartlett was attracted to the adaptation precisely because of his previous aversion to the form. ‘I’ve seen quite a few classical plays but always been strangely unmoved by them,’ he explains. ‘I didn’t know whether they were authentically Greek or whether they were a classical British version of that.’
Writing and directing Medea has helped Bartlett overcome some of these issues. ‘I think translations of Greek Drama should be more bold,’ he says. ‘If you’re going from Ancient Greek to modern English, that’s a huge jump. And you might as well reflect that also in the way in which you stage a play.’
In Bartlett’s production, Medea - played by Olivier Award nominee and Tipping the Velvet star Rachael Stirling - is a modern single mother who’s been left by her husband and can’t cope. And it’s the timelessness of Euripides' storyline that spoke loudest to the writer.
‘I only want to make work that speaks to people now,’ says Bartlett, ‘and you don’t really need to know anything about Ancient Greek theatre to enjoy it. I actually felt that a lot of the discussions about gender politics in Medea, you don’t need to update those. You just put them straight in and they feel exactly like the things that people are talking about now.’
Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, Thu 27 Sep–Sat 13 Oct.