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  • Bloody Medea: Using ancient tragedy to erase the past

    Image: Photo by Andy Hollingsworth.

    "To be together can be a pleasure and a pain, but love brings the answer to everything. Medea, and her capacity for love in the most tragic of circumstances, felt like a reprise to my own love for people, theatre, the world and what I longed for to be different."

    April Small talks about creating theatre through bringing tragedy and comedy together in her show Bloody Medea!!.

    When COVID hit I was still studying. In a bubble, a community - not perfect, sure, but it was my home. And then I had to leave, and move across to a new country with a day’s notice. I was reminded of my youth, (I’m still young, I like to think, but my youth youth) - when I was finishing school and the London bombings happened. Both times I graduated under extreme circumstances, and both times I imagined (because this is the purpose of investing in oneself) that my life would change. It did of course: just not in the way I expected. 

    To be uprooted - suddenly taken away from clan, community, the fellowship, home - can leave you wondering to yourself. ‘Did I make it? Am I here alone? Is this what I’ve been praying for? And can anybody hear me?’

    I turned to Medea in 2020 because I dreamt of being on stage as an actress somewhere like the National Theatre, like so many of my favourite actors before me. And Medea wanted to be heard - as did I. As the world closed down, I wanted to be with others: a community of performers each sharing and playing and - crucially - making each other laugh. Or to be with my family in Sussex. I wanted a home, and connection, and as the STAY INDOORS messaging continued, my connection to Medea felt stronger than ever. 

    Those first two weeks turned into two years of my life. Many situations along the way kept surprising me, similar to living through situations that I had read in history books, or George Orwell’s 1984. Steadily enough, within that time of strange and scary distance from those who I loved, small opportunities and ‘yes’s’ came my way. New, positive people slowly began to reveal themselves.

    To be together can be a pleasure and a pain, but love brings the answer to everything. Medea, and her capacity for love in the most tragic of circumstances, felt like a reprise to my own love for people, theatre, the world and what I longed for to be different.

    I didn’t think I knew how to be funny. I always felt kind of funny - but I wasn’t sure if that was the same thing. Or, I was funny, sometimes - and when it happened it was such a pleasure, but also always a surprise and often in the moments where I disliked myself and my behaviour the most.  I didn’t know how to move beyond the sadness, so I let that be there too and just kept going regardless. To want to be funny, and to use the myth of a woman to do so - a classically tragic myth - alongside the fact I was nannying at the time, and also actually scared of blood, admittedly doesn’t sound like the basis for a show. But Spymonkey, who I had reached out to to help me develop ideas, thought it sounded odd … but brilliant.  And that was the encouragement I needed.

    I listened to Medea with joy, and decided that even though I had never made a show, I wanted to take her with me and do something for us both.

    I can’t say what you will experience from coming to see me. Some people have laughed, some have left without looking at me - part of being a performer is knowing sometimes there’s people who clearly aren’t comfortable, and trying to avoid spending the entire show trying to understand why they don’t like it. So - please know everything I do as part of the show comes from a great belief that we just need to keep going and focus on what we love. That is my aim. (And please come and speak to me afterwards, I love to talk.)

    I read earlier today a quote that went along the lines of:

    "Nobody can break your heart if you love yourself." - Don Miguel Ruiz

    And I do find this to be true. I don’t think I’ve ever let myself be fully free. I have listened far too much to others and taken the people who said the worst things about me as the people to listen to. Because if their words could hurt me that much, surely, surely, they MUST be true.

    I prefer now, whenever possible, to love myself - and I find this to be the most challenging part of making work, because it goes against everything I’ve previously been taught to expect. That’s why making work, even when it’s about a millenia-old myth, is also about erasing the past. I want to forget everything I’ve ever been told about myself, and every time where I’ve chosen to believe the negative. Much like Medea, I want to be heard for who I am.

    And why ‘Bloody’ Medea? Well, my parents are originally from London, and to use the play on this word ‘Bloody’ felt right to me. ‘Bloody hell peeps’ was a common phrase growing up. And Camden was my Dad’s playing ground, so I am really happy to come back to his home turf with ‘Bloody Medea!!’ to wreak a bit of havoc myself. It is the home of the punks after all.

    Bloody Medea!!

    Wed 27 - Thu 28 Sep at 9pm

    Tickets £8 - £12

    April Small

    Thank you for allowing artists to take creative risks, the world needs it now more than ever.

    Programmed artist