Wretched Strangers presented us Jean Anouilhs 1946 version of Medea, the classic revenge tale on doomed Jason, a man never to fulfil his love to Glauce, daughter to King of Corinth, Creon. I have always loved Medea and the essential deus ex machina of this work, and this new adaptation, seemed to offer a new perspective on exile and displacement within a contemporary context.

Camille Wilheim delivers a powerful performance in this challenging and demanding role. She owns her part against a sometimes unbelievable set of characters who gallantly enter the stage but never fully match the presence of Camille. This jointly offers a triumphant Medea, but equally lowers the stakes of her power and potential. Given that Wretched Strangers are still in their first two years as a company, this is easily forgiven. Theatre is however about believing something else. So as Camille’s performance towered over the other actors, I forgot about the story of the world and began to focus purely on her. And this actor really is a tour de force.

The work never does seem to get a grip on contemporary issues of exile in any new or exciting way. It does however open our eyes and minds to the new voices and perspectives from Europe living within the UK, which still make Wretched Strangers a company to watch out for in these early days of their growth.

I found the final scenes of the play difficult to bear I must say. As Jason and Medea have their final showdown, Jason states
“Your heart is hot with fire
You persist
In all your raging and there is no cure”
We then see Medea appear with two balloons held down by weights which are supposed to represent her children. She eventually pops them in her murderous moment,  and red confetti is released from them to exhibit their deaths. After sustaining our attention for over 50 minutes with her embodiment of Medea, this was the kind of deus ex machina I could only dread.

What the play lacks in finesse or theatrical maturity, the lead compensates for in her presence as a truly scorned woman.