Kate Pinchuck in Medusa Incarnate: Photo: Jan Potgieter
Bonding over the power outage in a mood of anticipation, and eager to know whether the show would actually go up, we were let into the venue after all to be greeted by a modern day Medusa, sans the snakes scales and wings, draped in fairy lights. Turns out they were part of the set, repurposed as a costume to provide stage lighting.
Medusa (Kate Pinchuck) seduces us into her plastic boudoir with sass: “Welcome to Hades, bitches!”
At the beginning, our now dead Medusa is in the underworld, getting ready for a party. Persephone’s seasonal return to the upper world party. She welcomes us as newcomers to Hell, both flirting and diminishing us in typical comedy show style.
Medusa is pissed off, not in her present incarnation in Hades, where she says she’s quite happy, but because of past injustices, which are pretty extreme. However, the show is too superficial for the mythological subject matter and we end up truly not caring.
The performance, with its improvisational rapport with the audience, would have been better placed in the Bowling Club, except for the seriousness of its mythological subject of a god – Poseidon – raping a priestess of Athena who then gets punished for the act of which she is actually the victim by being turned into a Gorgon monster.
So, where does the show sit stylistically? It could have been something else but ended up just being horribly characterized comedy.
The monologue in which she tells of her rape was engaging and could have been the moment when the play shifted. But, after our briefly being shown her victimhood, this was quickly pushed aside for more make-up, dressing and dancing. So, in hell, we have to dance to prepare for a party to forget?
The dramatic potential of her being spooked by imaginary drips of water, a symbolic reference to a lurking Poseidon, could have been developed. In fact, her vulnerability and this ominous dripping could have been used to transform this irreverent comedy into a more interesting sense of pathos.
Instead, she says she loves plastic because it is starting to cover and choke Poseidon’s kingdom. This is hardly a real revenge.
Her couch of a plastic, inflated pool toy Pegasus, is pretty cool. But, as with much of the potential inherent in the show, is not explored. Pegasus is her son, born from her severed neck when the hero Perseus chops off her head. He is immortalized by the gods by being placed in the constellations of the heavens, another cause of grievance, whereas she is merely relegated to hell. With Poseidon being her abuser, using a pool toy as her couch could have had been extended into some thematic or narrative function of floating or flying, but is not. We wanted the drips to become a flood and for something to happen so that the play ended differently to how it began. That desire was never fulfilled.
Anyway, the play isn’t trying to be something other than it is, and it really disappoints.
In essence, Pinchuck’s characterization is too plastic, and although her performance delighted the audience, we missed Medusa’s pain.
Medusa Incarnate’s run at National Arts Festival is over but is likely to run in Cape Town.
Credits: Directed by Dara Beth, written and directed by Kate Pinchuck.