After many years, the Greek myth of Medea returns to the Bengali stage. Under Tapanjyoti Das’s direction, Rangapat have specialized in luxuriant spectacles of historical India; now their first foray into Western tragedy makes a meaningful impact. This achievement partly derives from Euripides’ classic itself, a major modern site for feminist and postcolonial discourse because Medea represents that archetype of the doubly oppressed – as a woman in patriarchy and an indigene taken (though willingly) from her Asian motherland by an acquisitive European. A third aspect has gained relevance lately: the prejudice faced by a “foreigner” in a country that had become her home.
The translator, Ratan Kumar Das, retains all these themes from Euripides, while understandably inserting a scene with Jason and Medea in Colchis to acquaint Bengali viewers with the unfamiliar backstory. But the depth of their (or at least her) love does not get shown as it should in this episode. Das also downplays Medea’s fury when she learns of Jason’s betrayal in Corinth and curses her children, “May ruin overwhelm you and your father” – a typical example of terrible wish-fulfilling dramatic irony. And he removes the final deus ex machina redeeming her in a chariot flown by dragons.
Tapanjyoti takes some excellent directorial steps. Dispensing with a customary interval heightens the buildup. He follows Greek practice also in using only three main actors: Senjuti Mukhopadhyay (Medea), Suman Saha (Jason, Creon, Aegeus), Sukriti Lahari (Nurse). Mukhopadhyay does not go over the top as she sometimes has in past royal roles, maintaining her composure. Saha compartmentalizes his parts so distinctively that we cannot tell it is the same performer. Lahari reflects the foreboding in all of us. Das employs a Greek-style ten-member chorus, often wearing masks and well choreographed. The costumes by Nilay Sengupta lend a mythical feel. Saumik-Piyali’s set, somewhat reminiscent of Drishyapat’s Oedipus, expresses bloody, dark symbolism complemented by Sudip Sanyal’s lighting.
On the downside, Tapanjyoti places two figures of Medea’s sons centrestage throughout, dropping a favourite Euripidean device of having children appear in the flesh. Yet he brings into view Jason’s new bride, which he need not have. We may also disagree with his interpretation of old King Aegeus, whom he characterizes as a slightly effeminate younger man. And Dron Acharya’s songs rely too much on recorded music for my taste. Nevertheless, a production worth watching.
(From The Times of India, 1 November 2019)