Q Theatre, Auckland
September 26, 2018
5/5 stars

Language is haunted by authority,  the male gaze, and the confines of the words themselves. I cannot say speak without echoing the same words, determiners, verbs that Freud used. If this is the only language I can speak through, how will I understand myself, if not through the patriarchal writings of men? How does Medusa understand herself, if not as the rage-filled, murderous monster that has been represented in art, literature, film?

Medusa is a performance that stretches itself out and wraps itself around the words, deconstructing them from within. Layers of meta upon meta and sound upon sound, this performance is a visceral artistic feast. I will look back on this performance in ten, twenty years and realize this is where it all began. Medusa is the start of a new artistic movement, a movement of awareness, awakening, of art that roots itself in honest feeling and experience. No longer will literature be the works of authority and men, for Medusa has awoken and has dissected the linguistic confines that create her. This performance is not only feminist, it is female. It is the essence of female-ness. It is creating a language, as Kathy Acker says, “which exists outside of its patriarchal definitions”. Medusa has given birth to a language that women can call their own, a “language of the body”.

Photo by Julie Zhu

Medusa is a work that is alive, it squirms and grows in front of you, full of sound and defiance.  The sound production of Medusa was absolutely stunning. Each sound on stage was used to create an atmospheric drone. The soundscape became the stage, binding together all modes of creativity to create this performance. Ritualistic, monstrous, beautiful, and swollen with pain. I was cocooned in the sound and I also couldn’t take my eyes away.  This is what the female gaze is, this is what female art is. It is monstrous and it is fantastic. There is a level of intimacy between actor and stage, actor and sound, actor and actor that I haven’t seen before. The audio mixing is discordant, but melodious. Though the stage may seem sparse and empty, the physical theatre and visuals are truly compelling. You forget you are in a theatre, you feel transported to some dark cosmic subconscious.

But Medusa does not claim to be original and this is what I love. There is an awareness that originality is impossible. Our work has traces of other people, stories, artists within it. And therefore, nothing can be owned by anyone. Medusa becomes a communal thought-piece, experienced by everyone, owned by no one.  Medusa has a conscious co-existence of experiences and this allows us to really feel the effect of this performance. We are a community, we are together in this moment, we sit here in this theatre and we watch the tale of Medusa stripped down before our eyes.  Medusa is owned by no one.

What specifically fascinated me about Medusa, was that, at its very core, Medusa was a visual essay. Experimental and creative, but also logical and opinionated. This is a new type of essay, conjoint with art and creativity. “Central to the creation of Medusa is the potential for art to become a form of activism, where art is an opportunity to address salient world issues affecting real people.”

This performance will stay with you. You will wake up in the night and hear the drone of voices from Medusa. This, I promise you, will be the show you remember in twenty years’ time. You will realize this was the start of a revolution. Medusa has created a language, space, and sound that women can claim as their own. No longer will their words be haunted by the writings of men that perceive powerful women to be a monster.

Photo by Julie Zhu

Medusa is presented by Q Theatre and Zanetti Productions as part of Matchbox 2018, playing in Loft until November 3rd. Click here to get your tickets!

Jennifer Cheuk is an English/Communications and Linguistics major with a passion for graphic novels and sophisticated picture books.  She likes eating grated cheese and watching niche films. Can be found cartooning and writing on instagram: @selcouthbird.