I am Medusa. I am she who turns men to stone. I am she who was beheaded. She who has gone unheeded, unheard, unwept. I am ignored, the unseen, the forgotten.
It’s an age-old story, the beautiful, objectified woman turned into a monster and fatally out casted as the result of sexual assault and her expression of pain. Her appearance dictates her value according to the male gaze. The woman is at the disposal of the man.
Medusa has been used as a symbol and as a lesson to women for generations. Though the meaning behind the mythological creature has changed, the rhetoric is monolithic. That is, women can either be desirable or monstrous. The major theme of Medusa throughout the retellings is the interpretation of a woman who has been made undesirable by man, creating her therefore as a monster, which inevitably results in her death. The male gaze avoids Medusa because the objectification of her beauty will turn anyone that looks at her to stone. Medusa, written by Finn O’Branagàin, attempts to take Medusa away from the popular narrative and readdress the story away from a patriarchal dichotomy and reframe her as a warrior, an inspiration, a unifier, and a catalyst for belief and action.
My friend and I were running late to the Blue Room Theatre. We had only five minutes to park, ticket and run. I knew the doors closed at 8.30 and I was not going to miss the show. We walked in to the blacked Blue Room. Instead of seating, there are two stages, a punching bag and a floor tom drum on the other side of the space. On the centre of the middle stage are carefully placed rocks, snakes, and other props to be used throughout the play. The actors wore nothing but black underwear. If you’re shy of skin and nudity, you may be confronted by the topless actors who only have black underwear on. This in itself is important in the reading of Medusa and the play as it challenges us to make the female body a norm. A focus away from the male gaze as a political resistance against the sexualisation of women’s bodies.
The audience are encouraged to intertwine, and weave through the stages, chanting and singing. It was unlike anything I had seen before and is definitely not for the faint hearted. The raw emotion, sound, noise, energy, and talent that is produced in this creative space will leave you weak at the knees. Literally. This wearing down physically and emotionally creates a different interpretation of the live art itself as well.
Medusa has been re-contextualised for thousands of years. She has been constructed as a monster, as a villain, and as lesson for all women to be conscious of their apparent valuable, yet fatal beauty. O’Branagàin’s contextualisation disrupts this toxic objectification of women that has been engrained into history and mythology. Instead, we must perceive the story of Medusa as an injustice, reject monstrous narratives and critique these engrained monolithic perceptions of women.
The transformation of the audience is just as dramatic as the transformation of the actors. You walk out exhausted, and bit sensitive to noise. But mostly you will walk out of the Blue Room Theatre as a different person. As an empowered person. As someone who has given Medusa and many more women back their heads.
Medusa is on at the Blue Room Theatre until November 3. Get your tickets here.