Medea Reviews – Starring Sophie Okonedo ★★★★

Reviews are coming in for Dominic Cooke’s new production of Medea at the new @sohoplace theatre starring Sophie Okonedo and Ben Daniels.

Directed by Dominic Cooke (Follies), this classic Robinson Jeffers adaptation of Euripides’ play features Sophie Okonedo (Death on the Nile) as Medea, Ben Daniels (The Normal Heart) as Jason/Creon/Aegeus, plus Marion Bailey as Nurse, Penny Layden as 3rd Woman of Corinth, Jo McInnes as 1st Woman of Corinth and Amy Trigg as 2nd Woman of Corinth. Understudies for the show are Alicia Charles, Leda Hodgson and Tom Peters.

Joining Cooke in the creative team are Design by Vicki Mortimer, Lighting by Neil Austin, Sound by Gareth Fry, Casting by Amy Ball, Children’s Casting by Amy Ball and Verity Naughton, Movement Director Lucy Cullingford, Associate Director Tanuja Amarasuriya, Production Manager Igor, Costume Supervisor Helen Johnson, Wigs Designer Sam Cox, Props Supervisor Mary Halliday and Vocal/Dialect Coach Jeannette Nelson.

Medea is running at @sohoplace theatre in London until 22 April 2023.

Read reviews from The Guardian, The Times, the Evening Standard, The Telegraph and more.

More reviews to follow.

Book Medea tickets @sohoplace theatre in London

Average Critics Rating

Medea reviews

The Guardian

"Sophie Okonedo is magnificent as ancient Greece’s preeminent rebel woman"

"Medea is as much victim as villain in Dominic Cooke’s psychologically subtle and subversive production, and Ben Daniels is superb playing all the puffed up men in her life"

"What is remarkable in this production is that Sophie Okonedo’s spurned wife is never an outright monster but rather a deeply wounded, highly strategic, stateswomanly figure; a formidable opponent to unfaithful husband, Jason, and almost upstanding in her anger. It is a magnificent performance."

"What seems like a formal, declamatory interpretation of the play at first becomes psychological and subtly subversive in Dominic Cooke’s hands. Robinson Jeffers’s celebrated adaptation has an epic quality but is more Shakespearean than Euripidean in its pace and poetry; the show runs over 90 minutes but is meditative rather than fevered."

"Gareth Fry’s sound cranks up the tension with drums, rattles, alarms and helicopters overhead, while the violence is all the more horrific for remaining unseen"

Arifa Akbar, The Guardian
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The Times

"Sophie Okonedo’s hellish descent into darkness"

"In the end, it’s the auditorium that emerges as the most potent presence of all... Which is just as well, because, for all the quality of the performances, Dominic Cooke’s production adds so many knowing flourishes that you’re sometimes distracted from the stark majesty of the text..."

".. Sophie Okonedo (star of Hotel Rwanda and, most recently, Slow Horses) is also caught in one of those onstage rainstorms that have become a modish metaphor for life in all its savage fury.... (This was my second downpour in consecutive nights of reviewing.) I understand a technical problem cut short the shower on this occasion; Okonedo’s display of thwarted passion really didn’t need much help anyway. When she makes her entrance, her eyes, moist and puffy, already seem drained of tears. By the close, they are as blank and hollow as those of some hellish statue."

"Women dominate this 90-minute version. The chorus is represented by three women of Corinth (Jo McInnes, Amy Trigg and Penny Layden) who speak from seats in various parts of the stalls. It’s an effective touch, binding the audience to the fate of the protagonists."

Clive Davis, The Times
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The Evening Standard

"A blazing Sophie Okonedo makes this spartan production a must-see"

"Dominic Cooke’s staging of the Greek tragedy is gripping"

"It’s not your typical West End entertainment but this staging of Euripides’ Greek tragedy grips with a cold, bleak force. Sophie Okonedo is riveting in her first stage role for four years, dredging up vast reserves of emotion to play Medea"

"Okonedo has an excellent foil in her old friend Ben Daniels, who circles the almost-bare stage in menacing slow motion before stepping in to play Jason and all the other male parts. There’s something wonderful about finding Dominic Cooke’s uncompromising, brutally human 90-minute production amid the video-spattered architectural kaleidoscope of the redeveloped Tottenham Court Road."

"The production sits sweetly in this in-the-round venue inspired by the great theatre at Epidaurus (a town namechecked in the play). I’m not sure we need the burst of twangly soft rock at the start, though, or the equally clichéd onstage downpour at the end."

Nick Curtis, The Evening Standard
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The Telegraph

"Sophie Okonedo is a mythic, otherworldly Medea"

"Okonedo and The Crown's Ben Daniels bring terrific intensity to Dominic Cooke's production of the harrowing Greek tragedy"

"... director Dominic Cooke, harnessing the terrific acting power of Sophie Okonedo and Ben Daniels, whips up a dust-dispersing chariot of an evening in the gleaming new Nimax theatre @sohoplace, hurtling us to the filicidal denouement with a force that leaves numb horror in its wake."

"Okonedo brings a relatable, contemporary attitude to the wife thrown over by her partner (now hitching himself to another woman). But she mixes that with an aura of mythic, otherworldly command as anti-maternal vengeance stirs within her. That combination corresponds with American poet Robinson Jeffers’s 1946 version, which has a conversational yet rarefied quality – albeit, especially when attempted by the female chorus dotted around the auditorium, it can sound a bit stilted."

"Daniels’s muscular action-man is flung from complacent self-possession to the essence of an emotional wreck, slumped in devastation. It’s bleak stuff for late winter – but such palpable intensity is apt to put a spring in your step."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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The Stage

"Sophie Okonedo is sensational”"

"Sophie Okonedo is sensational in Dominic Cooke’s astute, intense production of the seismically shocking tragedy"

"Dominic Cooke’s production, which uses a starkly elegant 1946 adaptation by American poet Robinson Jeffers, is austere, intense and emotionally astute. And Sophie Okonedo is a towering Medea: ferociously intelligent, coolly rational, wounded and humiliated but unbroken. She takes her revenge in the full, terrible knowledge of what it will cost her, unbowed and unrepentant to the last."

"With a mellifluous, woodwind voice, Okonedo’s Medea is implacable, merciless, bitterly witty; but we never doubt the agony that rips through her. She feels bodily defiled by Jason’s treachery; the killing of their children, the product of love and physical connection, is not just vengeful, but both brutally self-harming and purgative."

"The staging reverberates with such resonances: it feels at once mythic and modern."

Sam Marlowe, The Stage
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The Independent

"Sophie Okonedo has a moving dignity in this triumphant production"

"Dominic Cooke’s subtle staging of this Greek myth makes Medea’s actions seem just about understandable"

"Sophie Okonedo plays Medea with a moving dignity that nearly masks her deep inner pain."

Alice Saville, The Independent
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i News

"Sophie Okonedo is blisteringly brilliant in this revenge tragedy"

"The in-the-round auditorium of the West End’s newest theatre proves the perfect space for 90 minutes of approaching horror"

"The in-the-round auditorium of Soho Place, the West End’s newest theatre, proves the perfect space for an immersive 90 minutes of approaching horror – as well as mounting brilliance from Sophie Okonedo."

"Ben Daniels plays all the men – a fine idea (it’s the patriarchy in its multiple forms that has done for Medea) that unravels slightly in the execution."

"An especial delight of Dominic Cooke’s stylish and honest modern dress production is the deployment of the chorus of three women of Corinth. The trio are seated scattered among the audience, startling us when they begin to speak but united with us in powerlessness to prevent the horror they know is coming. Marion Bailey’s gentle fretful nurse starts the evening off assuredly with her overwhelming sense of foreboding."

Fiona Mountford, i News
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The Sunday Times

"Sophie Okonedo, initially in sunglasses, is self-assured and chic in the title role, although she never quite mines the depths."

"Greek tragedy can be claustrophobic. This production, using Robinson Jeffers’s colloquial 1946 script, avoids that pitfall."

"Cooke’s direction determinedly injects modern touches. It opens with a blast of rock music. Medea’s children arrive licking ice-cream cones"

"Rain has become a dreadful affectation among West End directors. The actors were trying to describe scenes of terrible suffering, but all I could think about was the flawed design of the nozzles creating those jets of bad rain. The catharsis you get from a proper rinsing of tragedy was absent."

Quentin Letts, The Sunday Times
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The Observer

"Sophie Okonedo breathes fire as Medea"

"The success of the play depends on general plausibility being swamped by the strength of theatrical feeling. I am never completely convinced, but Dominic Cooke’s impeccable production and Sophie Okonedo’s performance bring me close. Okonedo breathes fire from the beginning..."

"The male parts are all taken with great dexterity by Ben Daniels: he is both a vehement Jason and a very funny camp Aegeus"

"... in establishing the marvellous @sohoplace Nica Burns was inspired by the amphitheatre at Epidaurus. Her own theatre is as encouraging as it is imposing: it cups the audience in the same space as the actors."

Susannah Clapp, The Observer
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Daily Express

"This is hardcore theatre that takes no prisoners"

"Following last week's Phaedra, another Greek heroine storms the stage in the shape of Sophie Okonedo as filicidal mother Medea."

"The chorus of three women in the stalls doesn’t detract from the vortex of power that is Okonedo. She dominates the stage as the sorceress and ‘barbarian’ wife of Jason... Proud, defiant, fuelled by injustice, she is both frightening and empathetic. Not since Diana Rigg’s 1992 performance did I so easily understand Medea’s psychopathy."

"Daniels makes a good fist of Jason’s ultimately annihilated arrogance while his Aegeus is a triumphantly humane interpretation. This is hardcore theatre that takes no prisoners."

Neil Norman, Daily Express
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📷 Main photo: Medea. Photo by Johan Persson

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