Another Night: Medea - screener

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Another Night: Medea

Nigel Kellaway

Year: 2008, 14 mins
Code: NK-Medea

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Part of a set of excerpts from ten major works by Nigel Kellaway (1994 - 2004), assembled and edited by Kellaway and his long-time associate, video artist Peter Oldham.

The oPera Project has a very different starting point for each new work it makes. It might be a socio-political concern. It might be a particular text and/or attendant philosophy. Common to all works is how the performance of music impacts on theatrical articulacy, and how well all aspects of the material serve as a vehicle for the collaborating artists. Sometimes a particular musical text (generally non-operatic) triggers a new work. In this case the work is a rarely performed cantata by Louis-Nicolas Clérambault (1710). The subject matter? The murderous and infanticidal Medea, and Clérambault has a very interesting “take” on the myth.

Ovid’s story of Medea is a revenge myth. It’s true relevance lies in the myriad ways in which Western culture has chosen to interpret the story and applied it to contemporary events and consciousness.

There is no “one” Medea. Ovid’s mythical Jason, on an absurd quest, slaughters the citizens and rulers of Colchis and takes as his trophy their princess, the beautiful Medea. Oddly enough, they appear to fall in love. They settle and have kids on another foreign shore and confront all the usual immigration red tape. Jason’s solution to their troubles is rather clumsy – he marries the King’s daughter. His partner, Medea, is “a tad put out”.

The late 20th century East German playwright, Heiner Müller, describes the story of Jason as the earliest representation of colonisation in Greek legend:

The end signifies the threshold where myth turns into history: Jason is eventually slain by his boat … European history began with colonisation … That the vehicle of colonisation strikes the coloniser dead anticipates the end of it. That’s the threat of the end we are facing, the ‘end of growth’.

Louis-Nicolas Clérambault’s early 18th century cantata reads the story as a psychologically complex “revenge tragedy”. Interestingly, and perhaps cogniscent of contemporary moral squeamishness, he finishes his work short of Medea’s savage infanticide.

 Is the purpose of myths merely to create iconic certainties? Further research reminded us that “mud-slinging” has always been a reliable mainstay of the theatre, and few writers in the 20th century canon have plumbed the depths of middle-aged dysfunction as sensationally as Edward Albee, in his subconscious treatment of Medea’s and Jason’s wrestling match.

What are we to present? Ovid? Euripides? Heiner Muller? Clérambault? Albee? They are all profound readings of this myth.

And so...The oPera Project’s Another Night : Medea – endeavouring to discuss the “relatively” recent positioning of theatre as a psycho-analytical forum, and to consider how myths have been quite differently interpreted in the artistic canon of earlier centuries – all pertaining to where we locate art in our collective self-awareness.

Other performances from Nigel Kellaway's Works 1994-2004:
This Most Wicked Body (17'50'')
The Sinking of the Rainbow Warrior (4'30'')
The Berlioz: Our Vampires Ourselves (14'55'')
The Terror of Tosca (22'15'')
Tristan (11'30'')
Little George (17'20'')
El Inocente (7'10'')
Entertaining Paradise (16')
The Audience and other Psychopaths (18'40'')

More from Kellaway / The oPera Project Inc - DVD & Streaming:
Nigel Kellaway in Sleepers wake! wachet auf!
The Rameau Project
Brief Synopsis

NIGEL KELLAWAY - Artistic Director of The opera Project Inc.

In a career embracing his skills as an actor, director, dancer, musician and contemporary performance maker, Nigel Kellaway's initial professional performance training was in music, majoring in piano and composition at the universities of Melbourne and Adelaide.

He was the first Australian actor to train with Tadashi Suzuki and his Suzuki Company Of Toga (1984-85) and also worked with butoh artist Min Tanaka in Tokyo. Over 35 years, he has more than seventy full length theatre, dance and music works with companies including The One Extra Company, Sydney Theatre Company, Entr'acte, Terrapin Puppet Theatre, Sidetrack Performance Group, Legs on the Wall, Ihos Contemporary Opera, the Australian Dance Theatre, Stalker, Calculated Risks Opera Productions, the Song Company, Splinters Theatre of Spectacle, Urban Theatre Projects and Stopera and for venues including Performance Space (NSW), the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (WA) and The Royal Court Theatre (UK).

He was a co-founder, in 1987, of the performance ensemble The Sydney Front (of which a large selection of the performances are available on both DVD & Streaming), with major productions including THE PORNOGRAPHY OF PERFORMANCE (1988), PHOTOCOPIES OF GOD (1989), DON JUAN (1991), FIRST AND LAST WARNING (1992) and PASSION (1993). The Sydney Front toured extensively within Australia and Europe, to the UK and Hong Kong. Solo performance works include PERFORMER (1977), GIVE ME A ROSE TO SHOW HOW MUCH YOU CARE (1986), THE NUREMBERG RECITAL (1989) and THIS MOST WICKED BODY (1994), a ten day, 240 hour performance marathon with percussionist David Montgomery, video artist Peter Oldham and restaurateur Gay Bilson, which toured to the 1998 Telstra Adelaide Festival with pianist Gerard Willems and Gay Bilson.

Over the past fifteen years a major focus of his work has been in contemporary music theatre. In 1997 he directed the Colin Bright/Amanda Stewart opera THE SINKING OF THE RAINBOW WARRIOR with the Song Company and Australysis for the Sydney Festival on Sydney Harbour, and in 2001 co-devised and directed LITTLE GEORGE, again with the Song Company. His collaborations with Canberra based Stopera have been dISTRESSING THE DIVA in 1998 and the Clérambault/Rameau derived CANTATA in 2003.

In 1997 he co-founded with Annette Tesoriero The opera Project Inc., a loose ensemble of actors, musicians and physical performers dedicated to the mission of reassessing "opera" (and its accoutrement) as a contemporary performance practice. Major works by the company have been THE BERLIOZ - our vampires ourselves (1997, toured nationally in 2001), THE TERROR OF TOSCA (1998), TRISTAN (1999), EL INOCENTE (2001), ENTERTAINING PARADISE (2002), ANOTHER NIGHT: MEDEA (2003), THE AUDIENCE AND OTHER PSYCHOPATHS (2004), SLEEPERS WAKE! WACHET AUF! (2007) and THE RAMEAU PROJECT (2009).

He served on the dance committee of the Australia Council from 1993-96 and in 1997 was awarded the Rex Cramphorn Theatre Scholarship by the NSW Ministry for the Arts. Kellaway has been a leader in the development of avant-garde and hybrid performance practices in Australia over the past three decades, and in 2004 was awarded a senior artist's Fellowship by the Theatre Board of the Australia Council to devote two years to his continuing research into theatrical, operatic and contemporary performance practices.

"While an intense engagement with music is familiar territory for Kellaway’s productions, improvisation as a major element is a new departure and an inspired addition. What improvisation can so successfully do, in the face of the other very structured and often technically demanding performance elements (piano playing, opera singing, text-based theatre), is to undo them. It can rewrite and overwrite – it adds the dash of danger, the unexpected swerve, to performances which otherwise have their set paths to follow from beginning to end. And then there is also, simply, the pleasure of watching the performers create as they go, the thrill of the instant response to the immediacy of their situation.
Clever, unexpected, provocative and captivatingly performed by all, and Kellaway and Heilmann are – as always – riveting performers."
Laura Ginters, RealTime, June-July, 2002

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