What: Medea Songs, written and directed by
Where: Blondinis Cafe, Embassy Theatre, Kent Tce, Wellington
When: 9.30pm Wednesday 24 February to Saturday 27 February. Door sales only.
Drama laced with comedy and music, linking the centuries and delving into
the age-old problems of the human heart
Greek tragedy and a contemporary love story are intertwined in Medea Songs, a new play by award-winning playwright Sarah Delahunty set in a Wellington cafe and on at the New Zealand Fringe Festival 2010 from 24 to 27 February.
With a live band and a cast of 12, Medea Songs stars the exceptional talents of Neenah Dekkers-Reihana and Te Aihe Butler, who play the lead roles and perform the seven songs they wrote for the play. Both aged 16, the pair gave stand-out performances as Mary Magdalene and Jesus in last year’s Onslow College production of Jesus Christ Superstar. They also performed in the 1st Gear Productions contribution to Compleate Workes, last year’s celebration of Shakespeare.
Dekkers-Reihana and Butler perform together again – this time as Clio and Ajax, teenagers who meet one night in a Wellington cafe owned by the Greek god Zeus. As we know, Greek gods like to play with the lives of mortals. Can the future of Clio and Ajax be changed over a flat white or latte?
Delahunty, who directed Jesus Christ Superstar, says the two young actors have a special quality when they perform together on stage. “I wanted to write a play that would showcase their acting and musical talents. But it’s also a chance for some of the other young actors and musicians I work with.”
As with several other plays that Delahunty has written, Medea Songs draws on the classics as the basis for a contemporary story about teenagers. In the Greek tragedy by Euripides, the sorceress Medea kills her two children to spite her husband, Jason, who has left her for another woman.
“I wanted to explore how we, as adults, can sacrifice the emotional happiness of our children through our own self-absorbed needs,” she says. “I’ve seen the effect of that sacrifice on young people and I want this play to show that we can make choices and change our life story. So it’s a story of hope, but one that I think audiences will also find funny and heart-warming.”
Delahunty, who is co-director of 1st Gear Productions in Wellington, specialises in teaching, directing and writing plays for teenagers. She has written more than 20 plays, many of them for young people. Her Fringe 2008 play, 2b or nt 2b?, won a Pick of the Fringe award. It was also nominated for the 2008 Outstanding New New Zealand Play of the Year in the Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards and won Playmarket’s 2009 Plays for the Young Competition.
Delahunty likes including music in her plays. “Music is like emotional shorthand. It can go straight to the heart.”
As well as playing the role of Ajax and Jason, Te Aihe Butler is musical director. “I did Jesus Christ Superstar because I can sing but then I discovered that I love acting. It was one of the best experiences of my life.”
Neenah Dekkers-Reihana has been singing since she was a young child and performed her first solo in a schools music festival in the Michael Fowler Centre when she was in Year 8. “I'm still a bit blown away by how awesome the play is and being able to sing our own songs,” she says. “Drama started up for me at school but Sarah has opened up opportunities for me to perform. I’ve just learned so much from her.”
A CD of the seven songs will be available for sale at the performances. In the meantime, a recording of the first song, Waiting, can be heard now on You Tube.