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 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.