This retelling of an ancient Greek tragedy is debunking gender beliefs

Dipanita Nath
Medea, Medea play, Medea Greek play, Greek play Medea, Anuradha Marwaha, director Anuradha Marwaha, Art and culture, Indian Express

An ancient Greek tragedy by Euripedes, the play follows the trajectory of a woman, who kills both their children to avenge herself on her husband who has left her for another woman.

In a small town of Rajasthan, Arain, a woman arrived to watch Medea while henna dried in her hair, under a scarf. She stayed for the entire performance and then clung to Anuradha Marwaha, director of the play, and cried. “But, why did Medea kill the children?” she asked, and added the answer, “Because she wanted to end the bloodline of her husband, Jason.”

After another show, a man announced to the packed gathering: “The fault must be Medea's. No husband would leave his wife for no reason.” An angry woman rose to confront him with a monologue that began with “Thank you ji. It is always the fault of the ladies.”

Medea, Medea play, Medea Greek play, Greek play Medea, Anuradha Marwaha, director Anuradha Marwaha, Art and culture, Indian Express

Marwah's script increases the protagonit's emotional complexity by highlighting her love for her children.

Through its run of 15 performances in 2019, at venues spanning Studio 81 in Vasant Kunj and Gargi College for Women in Delhi to Nithari Basti in Uttar Pradesh and the Shaktishalini Shelter Home for Women in Ajmer, Medea has cracked through gender beliefs of audiences.

An ancient Greek tragedy by Euripedes, the play follows the trajectory of a woman, who kills both their children to avenge herself on her husband who has left her for another woman. “To me, Medea has always seemed vey political. When a system does something wrong by a certain people, and you push them and push them until you leave them with no option, then something gives. I feel that women are, time and again, pushed into impossible situations,” says Marwah, a Delhi-based academic who made her debut as a theatre director with Medea. The play is the first under the banner of Samtal: Theatre for Everyone of Delhi-based Pandies Theatre.

Medea, Medea play, Medea Greek play, Greek play Medea, Anuradha Marwaha, director Anuradha Marwaha, Art and culture, Indian Express

Through its run of 15 performances in 2019, at venues spanning Studio 81 in Vasant Kunj and Gargi College for Women in Delhi to Nithari Basti in Uttar Pradesh and the Shaktishalini Shelter Home for Women in Ajmer, Medea has cracked through gender beliefs of audiences.

“I have written on theatre but shied away from directing because it involves a lot of interaction with people. With Medea, I fell in love with the play. Medea is claiming the right that wasn't there for women – the right for life and death. She is asserting eher right, these are mine, in a society here nothing belongs to her,” says Marwah, who collaborated on stagecraft with Michelle Hensley and Kira Obolensky, founder and playwright, respectively, of Ten Thousand Things Theatre from the US.

To prepare her lead actor, Marwah handed a copy of Toni Morrison's Beloved, about a woman who kills her daughter to prevent her from being taken as a slave. Marwah's script increases the protagonist's emotional complexity by highlighting her love for her children. The play is performed in the round by seven actors, their dialogues and actions accompanied by live music and dance.

Medea, Medea play, Medea Greek play, Greek play Medea, Anuradha Marwaha, director Anuradha Marwaha, Art and culture, Indian Express

To prepare her lead actor, Marwah handed a copy of Toni Morrison's Beloved, about a woman who kils her daughter to prevent her from being taken as a slave.

“Medea was written more than 2,000 years ago. We believe that such plays that have endured for centuries have the potential to delight, instruct and humanise. They are civilizational wealth that should be shared and disseminated. With, Samtal, we plan to take classical theatre out of auditoriums and elite intellectual spaces directly to the people,” says Marwah.