Medea: The Chorus Diaries, final entry by Director Julian Bond

I directed the recent production of Medea and asked Natalie J Romero, co-ordinator of the Greek Chorus Diaries if she would allow me to add my thoughts on the Greek Chorus. She agreed so here they are –


I began reading around the subject of Greek theatre (and all extant plays) 18 months ago. It quickly became clear to me that in the Chorus Greek theatre presented an immensely powerful method of connecting actors to audience. Springing out of religious and social kinship groups in pre-capitalist and matrilineal societies, they represented the power of human beings working in cohesion.


The chorus is utilised by the three big names of Greek Theatre; Aeschylus, Euripides and Sophocles (though I feel that Sophocles viewed it as something of an encumbrance that couldn’t be done away with due to convention). It is always significant commenting and at times colluding in the action, giving moral judgement (or misjudgement) on the characters as they deal with their dilemas.


The more I read and embroiled myself in the subject the more aghast I became as to how such a magnificent element to theatre has been almost entirely lost and forgotten. An interesting comment I saw on a theatre forum following our show at the Unity Theatre stated how much the person had loved our Greek Chorus and how she had never seen it before and wanted to see more of it!


In thinking about the whys and the wherefores it seems obvious to me that as theatre became the preserve of the bourgeoisie who if it is not too much of an oxymoron to say are and remain always a group of individualists that the culture and vision of society that their writers would promote from Elizabethan times onwards would be one that didn’t need the crowd, the masses, the ‘ordinary’ people so beloved of Euripides. It is instructive to look at Shakespeare’s comedies and see the peasantry shown as oafish, cunning, stupid, incapable of sophisticated thought see ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’.


And so it goes on into modern theatre with the vogue for absurdist and individualist representations of reality disassociated from any meaningful political and social context. And theatre is always a social medium in a way that TV cannot be other than indirectly.


As we ran workshops on Greek theatre in the Autumn of last year we quickly became enamoured with the Chorus seeing its power and its magic released. It was also interesting that a fair few of the actresses who auditioned for parts in Medea initially for main characters quickly decided that their preference was to be in the Chorus.


And so to our Greek Chorus- well the first thing to say is I’m immensely proud of them all. Mairi Kennedy, Maria Hutchison, Natalie Romero, Vicky Lodge, Helen Shrimpton, Bex Culshaw, Faye Caddick and Sam Walton. We were blessed at the auditions by so many intelligent and sound actresses turning up as the work of the Chorus it’s synchronisation, working together on movement and sound is no easy matter. I was ably assisted in directing the Chorus by Faye Caddick who had a far better memory than me and saved the day on a few occasions and also Sam Walton as the Chorus Leader drove everybody on and ratcheted up the intensity. The eight chorus members all seemed to get along well and kept egos to a minimum and after a while I left them to work things out for themselves. They came up with a fair few of the choral pieces without any influence from me including the most dynamic entry to a play you could wish for ‘the tree of life’ – startlingly dramatic with Sam leading from the front as always.


We played around with the lines moving them around the chorus, breaking them up, repeating them, doing call and responses which again largely worked.


So at the end of this process I am happy to have created a template, trialed it successfully. Is the chorus relevant to 21st century theatre – 100% yes and anyone who disdains such a view or is too lazy to deal with the demands of the chorus doesn’t deserve much artistic respect. I hope it informs future work that I undertake, I see no reason to merely slavishly ape the conventions of Greek Theatre created millennia ago – rather I contemplated a dialectic between the chorus and individual characters who at times would be in the chorus and at other times would come out and speak as individual characters before returning undistinguishable back in to the chorus so on and so forth.


So from the most politically and socially progressive theatre (unsurprising given that the Athenians had moved already into a (partial) direct participatory form of governance as opposed to the fraudulent representative democracy that we’ve been ‘gifted’ with) of any period we have a tremendous asset, one that should be taken out of the box in the attic, dusted down and put to work. The returns it will bring are most valuable!

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 receives a four star review for St Lukes performance! By Natalie J. Romero

The cast and crew are incredibly excited to share Ian D. Hall’s review of our Saturday matinee performance of Medea at St Luke’s Church on Liverpool city centre, better known as The Bombed Out Church.

The day started off sunny and bright, which was the best blessing any one of us could have hoped for, on the day of an outdoor performance! It’s seems Zeus was smiling on us!

After making the short trip down the hill from our head quarters at the Casa on Hope St to our venue, probably looking even more comical than we realised, in full ancient Greek stage dress, we arrived to a packed out space, full of curious audience members, eager for a unique Burjesta show.

Friends and family dotted the pews amidst a sea of unknown theatre enthusiasts who seemed (much to our liking) to be thoroughly absorbed in the two hours traffic of our stage.

Mairi Claire Kennedy stunned as Medea, having switched roles with Mikyla Jane Durkan who took her place in the chorus for the afternoon.

Back in her original casting by the evening performance, Mikyla swayed the audience as the moon conducts the sea, bringing people from swelling laughter to free flowing tears.

All of the cast where highly commended both in review and by audience members who sought to congratulate them personally after the show.

Special mentions go to Callum and Gary, who play Medea’s son’s exquisitely every time, and who never complained once about the chill in the spring air and delivered another excellent performance.

Speaking on behalf of Burjesta, I can say I am very honoured that our rendition of Medea has come to be enjoyed by so many great audiences, and has been considered “a pinnacle” of achievement. We are very proud and thankyou for all your support.

Read Ian’s review for Liverpool Sound and Vision here:

Medea: The Chorus Diaries, Entry No. 8 by Mairi Claire Kennedy

It has been an amazing journey being part if this project and I truly have created memories that will stay with me forever and always make me smile.

The last week has been especially exciting for me as part of the Chorus as I have also had my chance to do a performance as the part of Medea after taking on the responsibility of understudy.

It speaks extremely highly of Mikyla’s character that not due to illness or unforeseen circumstances did we switch roles- myself playing Medea and Mikyla taking my place in the chorus- but because of Mikyla’s sheer generosity and warm heartedness.

Playing Medea has been an incredible roller coaster from start to finish. Whilst this part is, with good reason, important to every female actor and I’m sure a dream role for most (certainly me), it consumes an intense level of focus and demands long hours of investigating impossibly complex, dark emotions and subjects.

That said, once it reaches performance, if you have done your hard work you can let yourself go and nothing beats the high…

So, matinee over, we were on to the evening performance: I was back with my chorus and the mood was amazing in the Bombed Out Church.

Over the last 4 months all 8 members of the chorus have have had an intense rehearsal shedule! Starting our first few rehearsals with (as I’m sure it’s been previously mentioned) highly awkward body invading space exercises and yes there was touching (all above board… nothing funny). From then on in (although I say it myself) we worked phenomenally well as a team and it is one I am damn proud to be part of.

I hadn’t rehearsed for the chorus since the Casa shows, doing only rehearsals as Medea. However, the chorus, Julian and I all had faith and it wasn’t misplaced. During the evening performance we worked once more as part of that team, seamlessly reacting to each others moods and movements, focusing constantly on the breathing around and within us to know when to speak and move in unison.

Not only has it been a pleasure to work with 7 accomplished and skilled women, I’ve made some seriously awesome mates..

And why else give 4 months of your life to Greek theatre? 😉

I’m so, so sad it’s almost at an end… but it’s not over yet…

Roll on the Unity show this Saturday! 😀

Medea: The Chorus Diaries Entry No. 7 by Natalie J Romero

You may have noticed that this entry is a little over due; I actually realised last night that it couldn’t come at a better time. Medea is moving! Our next performance s will take place at St Luke’s Church, better known as the bombed out church, in Liverpool city centre, at the top of bd st. This has gotten us chorus almost too excited for words. It was our first rehearsal is this historic and atmospheric space yesterday evening where some amazing sights where ours to behold.

The artist in me was actually so excited that it couldn’t be contained and had to steal a moment to capture a proper live action virtual tour of the location:

Click for Video Tour

But this, by far, surpasses the level of excitement that any single member of the chorus could muster on their own:

Click for Choral Emphaticness

There only  seemed to be one person taking the entire experience in so calmly, he appeared to be asleep, as you may have noticed in that little film…

You will notice that this week, the Chorus includes our very own Mikyla Durkan! And that Mairi Claire Kennedy is strangely absent… This is because as Mikyla’s understudy, Mairi has been studying up on the role of Medea and will be making her debut as the vengeful queen at the matinee performance at St Lukes, this Staturday. We couldn’t be happier that talented Mairi is making this jump onto centre stage, and in such an iconic setting; and of course Mikyla is such an awesome chorus member.

The entire experience of rehearsing at St Luke’s was quite surreal, and I’m sure performing for a live audience this weekend will be even more so. There is the sense running right through it that nature is slowly reclaiming it. Despite it’s dramatic and sometimes violent history, the inside ambience is one of calm. Though one eerie feature we all couldn’t help but notice was the wind that gets trapped inside it’s derelict walls and echoes like thunder run away from it’s storm.

Please join us this weekend! Medea at the Bombed Out Church at 2pm and 7pm Saturday 18th April!

Medea: The Chorus Diaries Entry No. 6 by Samatha Walton and Faye Caddick

We all can’t believe we’re on entry number 6 already! Six weeks since we started the Chorus Diaries and only a few left…

To mark this milestone and to put their own unique spin on the Chorus Diaries, chorus members Samantha Walton and Faye Caddick, the ‘terrible twins’ of Burjesta, the dynamic duo of Greek tragedy present their Vlog:


Faye and Sam’s Video Blog for entry No.6 of the Chorus Diaries



Medea: The Chorus Diaries Entry No. 5 by Helen Shrimpton


Well That’s it! after 10 weeks of rehearsal, and performances we have come to the end of our runs at The Casa. Now, a well deserved short break for the cast and crew of Medea is due before we perform the final 2 shows at St Luke’s Church and the Unity Theatre.

I will admit here and now, that this whole process has not been particularly easy. In fact it’s been pretty exhausting! From the physical side of the performance, including being on stage for the duration, and holding certain positions for a long time (I got pins and needles in places I didn’t think you could get them in!) to the emotional storyline, and finding that extra gear within yourself to get the audience to question and challenge their beliefs and morals. This play has taken a lot out of me (in a good way of course).

I love a top 5 list so here are some personal highlights from Medea:

1) The rehearsals for the Chorus (even the dreaded ‘Chorus tag’ warm ups!)

2) The beautiful and lyrical way the script has been written by Jonathon Bibby (a nightmare when it comes to learning your lines but I’m not complaining! (honest!)

3) The powerful portrayals of Medea, Jason, Creon/Aegeus ,The Messenger, The Tutor ,The Nurse and of course our 2 little stars playing the young sons. It’s been a joy to watch these roles come alive.

4) The stunned silence from the audience at the climax of the show. (shivers down my spine every night!)

5) The feeling of pride that has come after every performance so far. May it continue for the last two!

Another of the most satisfying outcomes from these shows and rehearsals has been the bonding between the Chorus members both on and off stage, which according to Julian our director, is something he is very proud of.(apparently 8 women speaking in unison and giving you daggers can be a little intimidating!) It can be very difficult to show off so many personalities and still maintain a sense of community, but I think in this case it has been a success. By listening to each other and challenging concepts of what we thought a chorus should be about, we have achieved a level of performance that many professional actors and theatre groups take months to perfect. As Stanislavski said ; ”There are no small roles, only small actors”.

I am immensely proud to have been involved in these shows and on personal level, I believe that this process has helped me become confident in my abilities as a performer and in social situations whereas before I may have shyed away from exposing myself. (not in that way, oo-er! although that costume leaves little to the imagination at times!)

Sometimes the best moments in life come from the source you least expect it to. For me this has certainly been the case.

If you haven’t already, please come to the remaining shows on 17th and 25th of April. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have,

Now, all this writing and performing has worn me out. Time for a cuppa and a biccie I think. Chocolate Bourbon anyone?

Love Helen x


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!)

Medea: Greek Chorus Diaries- Welcome, by Natalie J. Romero

Collage 2015-03-01 18_29_46


Hello, and welcome to the first ever Greek Chorus Diary entry. I’m Natalie, coming to you from the depths of the Burjesta extended family and this is the place for wonderfully weird world of the Burjesta Greek chorus, updated every week with details straight from the performers themselves.

So far work on Medea has been long, arduous, and an utter brilliance of fun at the same time. From the invention of Greek Chorus Tag to the many ways of learning to act ‘collectively individual’, we’ve all come a long way since those fateful December auditions.

But with just four short weeks to go before opening night at The Casa, the cast of Medea are having to cast out the antics, the banter and finally get down the really serious business of final rehearsals and show prep.

Medea, for many of the cast and creative team, has been a production unlike any other. Greek tragedy, it seems, demands a certain mixture of tender love and care, juxtaposed with the odd barked order, teamwork, copious amounts of tea and a mutual understanding from everyone involved that all theatre to some extent is one great experiment. But this one perhaps more so than others: Medea presented itself to Burjesta as the first script to feature a ‘chorus’- not in the way that many might anticipate a chorus to be featured in a play; it is neither the embodiment of song and dance and both those things equally, coupled with reverent storytelling that is invaluable to the plot. A cast of eight make up the chorus, Sam Walton, Rebecca Howard, Faye Caddick, Mairi Kennedy, Maria Hutchinson, Helen Shrimpton, Vicky Lodge and myself) and are charged with reflecting the mood and ambience as it shifts within the story. With the driving force behind this being the impassioned Medea herself, the chorus must sea-change with all the sensitivity and depth of the ocean.

Each week from now until the end of Burjesta’s run of Medea, a different member of the chorus will update you with the progress of the production, the challenges and rewards they stood to face that week and exclusive behind the scenes details you will only find here.

In between these ‘Chorus Diaries’ cast members Mikyla Durkan (Medea), Jonathon Bibby (Jason), Ifan James (Aegeus and Creon), Gillian Paterson-Fox (The Nurse), Angela Parkinson (The Tutor) and Yahya Baggash (The Messenger) may chime in with entries of their own, but surprises are best left unspoiled!

For me, becoming part of Medea, and by extension, of Burjesta, has been an enlightening experience. Yes, all theatre productions need teamwork to succeed, but being part of the chorus has taken this to another level. I hope my fellow chorus members will agree that all these rehearsals, getting to know one another, mind and body, 12-15 hours per week has been a lesson in communication, in sharing, and a learning curve that I wouldn’t exchange for anything. We all seemed to have found our niche, our talents taken on personalities: not in recent months has every muscle been so thoroughly stretched and worked as in Rebecca’s pre-rehearsal physical warm-up’s. I knew Sam Walton and Faye Caddick a little bit before Medea, now that has become a whole lot more, with their dynamic and infectious friendship. Mairi Kennedy, understudy to Medea, is the depth amongst all our comedy.

I have discovered Mikyla to be a chameleon from comic to tragedian, with her achingly funny talks on everything from costumes to Guinea-pigs, quick-changed to her embodiment of shiver-inducing revenge seeker. Director Julian has a working style that I again have not seen in action before, but has been the gentle, encouraging force behind all our friendships formed, since all of us auditioned in December.

So- welcome to the Greek Chorus Diaries! I hope all of you stick with us, we are an odd lot, with much to say and share, and the only place you’ll find it is right here. Expect the next entry Sunday 8th March, and every Sunday thereafter!

Natalie x