Medea: The Chorus Diaries Entry No. 9 by Mikyla Jane Durkan

A Brief Encounter – I Am Chorus 

By Mikyla Jane Durkan

Click for spoken poem


From far flung exotic lands they came

And drifted into shore

Crosby, Southport , Wirral too

As well as many more

As they met they gathered strength

A groaning greedy beast

Their lilting heads and 16 eyes

Reached out and lunged increased

It grew in strength

with every week

Challenged the strong and

Trampled the meek

And all the while this Unity bloomed

An ever moving flower

A watchable swaying monster with

A strange hypnotic power.

I , an outsider once but now drawn in

My fate post St Luke’s Eve will be banishment to the bin

The cast

Cast aside

But for now…..

I am Chorus

Medea: The Chorus Diaries Entry No. 3 by Vicky Lodge

For a while now I’ve had something of a vague mental list of activities that I just wanted to have a go at. Not a bucket list as such, nothing amazingly adventurous or dangerous, but quite high up on this list always remained, “Have a go at a bit of acting.”


Nothing where I was in the spotlight, absolutely NO improv (it just sends chills down my spine, I can help it), but something where I could learn a script, be part of a rehearsal process and be on stage (actual stage or church hall) in a credible production.


As a big fan of theatre and the performing arts in general, I think it’s quite common to feel that pull to have a dabble at it yourself just to see what it’s like being on the ‘other side’. Also, as my day job is working with very high energy and often volatile drama students, where most of my time is spent being on their case for having not learned their lines, continually losing focus, arguing with their director and endless… endless…. fidgeting, the idea of being an actual part of a production, as opposed to watching and commenting from the sidelines, would give me the chance to experience things from the actor’s (or even a student’s) point of view.


The audition workshops for Medea appealed to me for two main reasons; Firstly, there were eight spots going for the all-female Greek chorus. I’ve always found something quite fascinating about Greek choruses and also it provided the opportunity to contribute as part of an ensemble without having too much focus on me individually. Secondly, I’d previously attended one Burjesta workshop that was great fun and it struck me, at the time, as a very inclusive environment, which is something I actively seek out no matter what I become involved in.


The first audition workshop was enjoyable and pain free until it got to the (unexpected) part of having to get up and act in front of everyone else. CRINGE! I literally had never, ever done that before in my life and it came to the point as people were getting up (and being really, really good) that I was scanning the venue trying to figure out how I could make an unnoticed exit, never to be seen again. Upon realising there was no dignified way of actually doing this, it was my turn! My untimely death would have been preferable to me at that point.


I got up and did what I did but with no intentions at all of returning the following week for the ‘proper’ audition. It was only due to the director, Julian Bond, giving me some genuinely encouraging feedback that I returned the following week and was subsequently cast in the chorus. It really was just a case of facing the fear and doing it anyway, which happily paid off.


I’m penning this as we are entering into our final week of rehearsals and wanted to write something from the perspective of a total non-actor among the women in the chorus who have great and varied skills, experience and training (in one way or another) on how I have found the rehearsal process.


The main thing, is that there is no getting away from the fact that this is a definite commitment that WILL monopolise a lot of your time. I remember our director saying at our first script read-through that it is very difficult to carry on with your normal life AND learn lines/rehearse on top of that. That something usually has to give, which I’ve found this to be completely true. The process can be intense and quite tiring on occasions, and to be fair to the many drama students who have been on the receiving and of a telling off from me for fidgeting or giggling at inappropriate moments… I kind of get that now (I’m not telling them that, though).


A friend commented to me recently, “Imagine how hard it would really be if you had a main part and not just a small one in the chorus.”


I had to correct her that the chorus, as a whole, is integral to the production and is actually a massive part of it considering we are not only on stage, acting and reacting the entire time, but we are also; remembering our line allocation, when to speak and when not speak, when to move and when not to move, when to move in a straight line and when to move (backwards) diagonally, suitable pauses, when to become dynamic and when to remain detached, when to react to the actors on the main stage and when to remain impassive, when it’s OK to move our heads but not move our eyes, when to lean forwards… not too much, though, when to stop, when to shift, hold still, when to be frightened, amused, repulsed, intrigued, shocked and anxious, and when not to be anything at all… except be like a tree… or creepy ghost.


That is a challenge for one actor but with eight actors working as one unit, it proves even more challenging as we are eight different voices, opinions, learning styles, memories and levels of focus trying to work cohesively on a continual basis. All in all, I can say that it has all been a very enlightening and enjoyable learning process and something that I am very pleased to have become involved in. The feedback for the chorus by our director and fellow cast members has always been consistently positive and useful in pointing us to what we’re doing right and how we need to fully develop into the strange and unsettling entity of Medea’s Greek chorus.

Medea: The Chorus Diaries- Entry No. 2 By Maria Hutchinson

“In Athens when the world was younger,
Harmony with the flaxen hair was born…”

It seems a very long time ago that I attended the auditions for this production back in dark and dank December. The two preparatory workshops were arduous yet fun; a crash course in the dynamics of the Ancient Greek chorus.

Unlike the all singing all dancing ensembles that make up modern chorus lines more familiar to a contemporary stage, the ancient Athenian Chorus embodies the moral compass of the plays, a unified voice that both observes and challenges the actions of the protagonist. In this instance, Medea, the iconic woman scorned who enacts a revenge more terrible than any other; the fierce intellect who had irrevocably betrayed her home for the love of Jason, and then when he at last abandons her for a more profitable match, utterly destroys her remaining family for the hate of Jason. Medea reclaims the power that is taken from her in the only avenue that is available to her.

I am immeasurably pleased to be a part of this production. I have been fascinated by the legend of Medea ever since studying the Greek Classics at uni. I always felt that, although undoubtedly guilty of a horrendous act, the character behaves in the only way she can. She is the tragic hero who is manipulated by the gods to further their agenda, then forgotten about when she has served her purpose and left to rot. Although she is by far the most intelligent, skilful and determined of all her peers, she is rendered powerless by virtue of her gender. I think the play, although over two thousand years old, is still highly relevant to today’s audience as it explores themes of gender disparity and discrimination, plus the effects that total alienation can have on a proud person.

Anyway, I’ll try and stop gushing about the play or this entry will run into the thousands of words instead of hundreds.

“If daylight breaks and finds you here,
You die…”

The Chorus was initially written for fifteen male actors; we began with ten women, falling to eight within the first month. Luckily our numbers have remained the same since the initial streamlining and overall attendance has been good. Life commitments means that not everybody has been available to attend each rehearsal and that can complicate matters and slow things down somewhat. In the circumstances, I’m impressed by how much we have achieved and how little grumbles have occurred.

It is a very physically demanding role; extended periods of stretching and holding tension in your body at a slightly different angle than you’re used to, long periods of attentive stillness, being present throughout the two acts. We always start with vigorous physical and vocal warm ups, sharing the lead in the horizontal way that we have worked together from the outset. To be fair, we sometimes skimp on these vital warm ups and so it’s hardly surprising that often we are aching all over. A bug bear of mine though is the tendency to stop after warm ups and spend five or ten mins discussing the format of that session’s rehearsal. Grrrr!

To be a part of the Chorus is to be as a head on the Hydra. We are all individuals yet also part of a unified whole. This aspect is one of the more challenging parts of the role, how to portray a cohesive chorus whilst not succumbing to a monotonous recital of endless dialogue? As amazing as it would be if we were truly speaking with one voice throughout, practically this would require a level of intense rehearsal that is impossible to achieve at a non-professional level. Hopefully we have struck a good balance between unity and uniqueness, passivity and activity, reportage and opinion.

“The one who gave life should be the one to take it.
That is only right…”

Overall, the process of rehearsing Medea has been immensely enjoyable. As a group we all seem to have bonded well, there are no unchecked egos and no fall outs over artistic differences. Considering that we have all committed five months of our lives to this production, and often had to rehearse in freezing conditions, the camaraderie and support has been refreshing. I think that the culture of Burjesta promotes this; Julian is always open to hearing our point of view and, even if it’s wrong for the scene, never belittles an idea or otherwise elevates his own.

Personally, I would prefer a bit more strictness, but that’s just me and my penchant for rules. It’s probable that the relaxed working atmosphere has contributed more to our efficiency when trying out new ideas. At first, when we were given a scene to dramatise, we would spend half the time chatting about it, the other half perfecting the first stanza or two, and the 30 seconds before performing it, agreeing to collectively wing it for the final lines. Luckily now we’ve reversed that trend and now produce workable ideas about fifty percent of the time, (as opposed to a tight dozen lines followed by some intense shuffling!)