Hayley Canham, who plays the titular role, also wrote the electric restagingMedea the Musical Production Team

This opening night has been a long time in the making. Having started rehearsals in 2019 and having its original run delayed due to COVID, student Hayley Canham’s rock opera-style modern retelling of the Greek myth of Medea finally hit the Town and Gown stage last night.

The cast of Medea the Musical consists of only four actors. Each played their character in a way which was interestingly distinct from the style of their co-stars, and this added to the show’s wonderfully eclectic atmosphere. Canham herself played the titular character with sensitivity and complexity, which contrasted sharply with Dixie McDevitt’s hilarious portrayal of the insufferable and decidedly uncomplex Glauce. Although the acting was solid all-round, I found McDevitt to be particularly brilliant in providing comic relief, and along with Canham she more or less held together the group musical numbers.

“The quartet succeeded in performing songs from an unbelievably wide variety of genres”

Meanwhile, Gabriel Jones succeeded in winning Jason – although a much meeker character than his Greek hero counterpart – some sympathy with his intelligent portrayal. The show is held together by the character of Aegeus (Gregory Miller) who is simultaneously the narrator of the story, Medea’s counsel for the defence and also her ‘friend’ who persuades her to (spoiler alert) murder Glauce. He also seems to occupy a fourth role as a sort of God, and appears to be conscious of the fact that the others are all characters in a play – a play which he seems to be in control of. Miller’s Stephen Fry-esque natural authority made him the perfect narrator, although in general I found the concept behind his character a little confusing.

Music was performed live by an on-stage band consisting of keys (Fleur Gardner-Way), violin (Hannah Erlebach), cello (Beatrice Thompson) and guitar (András Droppa). The quartet succeeded in performing songs from an unbelievably wide variety of genres, and doing so spectacularly in addition to occasionally being drawn into Miller’s fourth-wall-defying gags.

“I missed out on the lyrical aspect of the performance”

However, as wonderful as the music was, there was one major problem: it was far, far too loud in relation to the vocals to the extent that during the majority of the songs I did not have even the faintest idea what anyone was singing about, although they did sound rather catchy. This Achilles heel was clearly just a minor sound-mixing error which I am certain will be amended in future performances. Nevertheless, I must express my frustration at the fact that I missed out on the lyrical aspect of the performance which, judging by Canham’s undeniable musical talent (23,225 monthly listeners on Spotify at time of writing) and the clever dialogue of the show’s non-musical scenes, should have been the highlight of the evening. Oh well, such are the pitfalls of going to watch a show on opening night.

Dixie McDevitt shines as the insufferable GlauceMaria Woodford

The updating of the story did not feel at all forced, and avoided the risk which all ‘modern adaptations’ run of being too clever-clever about bringing in lots of 21st century elements and references. This trope was instead reserved solely for brilliant one-liners such as “Don’t gaslight me, Jason”. The writing was pretty good in general, and although the way in which the show seemed to shift from domestic drama to cabaret to courtroom drama to sit-com to ballad to true crime documentary to psychological horror and back to domestic drama nearly gave me whiplash, it certainly did keep things interesting.


Mountain View

The God Committee is wonderfully unsettling

I do feel that the motives of the main character could have been explored in a little more detail – although, again, it is very possible that she sung a whole song explaining in detail her entire thought process and I just couldn’t hear it over the instrumentals. The horrific climax of the play, therefore, lacked the emotional-build up necessary to make it the moment it could have been. However, I have since learned that this was originally intended to be a two-act show, but that it was slimmed down in order to be more suitable for the Edinburgh Fringe. This is an understandable choice (I have no idea how a cast of four could possibly have the energy to perform a two-act musical with no chorus), but this trimming might be to blame for the lack of exploration of Medea’s character which should, after all, have been the focus of the play.

Okay, I’m nit-picking now (although technically I’m not sure it even counts as a criticism to say that I wish the show had been longer). In truth, I spent the whole evening utterly and completely in awe of Hayley Canham and her funny, thought-provoking and altogether gloriously mad creation. Bringing this musical to the stage must have been a Herculean task, but I can safely say that it was well worth the wait.