They say Art imitates life, so what happens when life imitates Art, can it be too close for comfort?
Many years ago a celebrated Classical Actress visited us to film a Workshop for the Open University of Euripides ‘Medea’. A bloody tale of murder. Medea had her reasons; her ” passionate grief”,” her dark mood”, her emotions battling against her husband Jason’s infidelity and his ‘civilized’, in the Greek sense, indifference. A man who says(lines 573-575)
” If only children could be got some other way
Without the female sex! If women didn’t exist,
Human life would be rid of all its miseries.”
She commits infanticide. Then feeds her brood to her husband as a feast of revenge, behaviour expected in a Greek Tragedy!
Film a group of Liverpool based Actors tackling the modern relevance of Greek Tragedy.
Well it is relevant. There’s the knowledge we revel in ( we being tabloid society here) juicy murder, exploitative headlines, distancing us from the ‘apparent’ aberration of demonic mothering and cannibalism. There is our artistic quest for academic/classical worthiness. Then there is the actual reality of modern life, mental illness and family, which continue like an umbilical cord threading its way from ancestors to present day preoccupations.
Expectantly we gathered, the workshop begins, we sit in a circle on the floor, our social drama heads on. One by one we are to introduce ourselves to the circle and state why this classical play has relevance for the modern audience. Yes it is relevant people still murder members of their own families. It’s my turn. I speak, I speak the truth.
“Well I think the story of Medea is very relevant today” I say. “Recently my friend murdered his Mother” What have I said! The truth, the awful, terrible, heart-breaking truth. Stated as it is, not overly dramatic, just real.
THIS IS A REALITY, faced by real families, it is dreadful we fear it, but it is part of our human condition, our frailty. The proverbial hole opens up, that’s not what I was supposed to say! This is a play, art, we’re supposed to be ‘being arty’ and intellectual, not be that real, that grim, that raw. Art and life are inextricable linked though.
I wasn’t a Mother at the time, I viewed life with a romantic sentimentality of what might be, the expectant bliss of future motherhood with a tragic twist, I continued, “If I were a mother I would much rather my child murder me than anyone else ”
Years later I am a Mother and my friend’s Mother still haunts me. I look at my baby, if he grows up to be a murderer I’d still much rather he murdered me than anyone else, not that I fear being a murderers mother. I’d still love him with the deep, deep love that caresses the heart. With the power that connects him with my very soul, even after death. But how could I bare some other Mothers loss at the hands of my wombs work.
Medea’s reputation as a mother is murdered; she is not seen as civilized, she is too emotional. She had her reasons. My friend had his reasons, his lack of ‘reason’, he was swept up in the blind raging panic and pain of mental distress.
The workshop was re-shot elsewhere. No one mentioned Murdering their Mother.