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This funny, moving and deeply intelligent play premises itself upon Euripides’ Medea, but leaps away from it in two key ways: firstly, resetting it largely in the contemporary world, and secondly, telling it mostly from the point of view of the two boys who are, ultimately, murdered by their mother. In this way, it achieves a contemporary resonance, reflecting on the suffering of the children in marital breakdown, and the rare – but not rare enough – shocking outcomes in which children become the sacrifice of tormented parents.
The play takes a huge risk in allowing the largest part of its drama to be centred on two child actors – and yet, through their play and their dialogue, many of its larger themes are carried, and carried with grace and lightness: love, marriage, jealousy, adult power relationships, the role of men at war, the relative powerlessness of women in patriarchal societies, the socialisation of male children, the imminence of death. These boys PLAY at death, little knowing – as we, the audience, do – that their own death is approaching. And there are no false notes within the depiction of their childhood world and sensibility. In Medea’s own appearances, the play achieves a level of beauty and poetry in the writing that is often thrilling. A very fine piece of work for the stage.