Circa Two, Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St, Waterfront, Wellington

21/09/2018 - 06/10/2018

Q Theatre Loft, 305 Queen St, Auckland

25/10/2018 - 03/11/2018

WTF! Women's Theatre Festival 2018

Production Details


The historic emblem of female rage is reclaimed and brandished in all its glory in MEDUSA, created by visionary feminist theatre makers Nisha Madhan, Julia Croft and Virginia Frankovich. MEDUSApremieresat Circa Theatre Sept 20 – Oct 6, before moving north to Q Theatre Oct 24 – Nov 3 as the fourth work in the powerful MATCHBOX 2018 Season. 

The original myth of Medusa follows the fate of the beautiful maiden Medusa who is turned into a monster by the goddess Athena after she is raped by Poseidon in Athena’s temple. Her hair is turned into snakes and her face becomes so terrible to behold that to look directly at her would turn the onlooker to stone. The story has inspired this theatrical exploration of female rage, violence, eroticism and the search for a feminism of the monstrous. 

MEDUSA aims to deconstruct this historic tale while challenging stagnant societal attitudes towards feminism. In the midst of the #metoo revelations, MEDUSA actively protests the idea that the feminist political position is nothing more than a commodity, reflecting the fury that many women living in contemporary New Zealand feel. Central to the creation of MEDUSA is the potential for art to become a form of activism, where art is an opportunity to address salient world issues affecting real people.  

With the Wellington season opening two days after the 125th anniversary of the first women in Aotearoa winning the right to vote, there has never been a more fitting time for MEDUSA to channel the fury of women who are enraged at the limits being forced on them by our culture over a century after suffrage in New Zealand. 

MEDUSA is the result of the ongoing collaborative creative relationship between acclaimed feminist theatre makers Virginia Frankovich (If There’s Not Dancing At The Revolution I’m not Coming, Fuck Rant, The Plastic Orgasm, Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again), Julia Croft (Power Ballad, Body Double, The Plastic Orgasm and If There’s Not Dancing At The Revolution I’m not Coming) and Nisha Madhan (Fuck Rant, Power Ballad, Titled, LIES). MEDUSA will involve a multidisciplinary collage of deconstructed theatricality, dance, sonic composition and performance art.  

The trio have worked together since 2013 and through a variety of projects they have developed a shared process and practice which they continue to refine both collectively and in their individual practice.  MEDUSA is presented and produced by Zanetti Productions, who has acted as creative producer on a number of these projects and has been key to their critical and commercial success. Joining the creative team will be sound designer Claire Duncan (i.e. crazy, Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again), Meg Rollandi (WATCH, Force Field, Burn Her) on performance design, Calvin Hudson (If There’s Not Dancing At The Revolution, Power Ballad, The Plastic Orgasm) as lighting designer, production manager Ruby Reihana-Wilson, and Kate Prior (Pantograph Punch, Power Ballad) as dramaturg. 

MEDUSA will be produced with the help of Creative New Zealand and Circa Theatre and is proudly part of MATCHBOX 2018, Q Theatre’s creative development programme. 

“Postmodern performance art meets power pop politics – powerfully delivered.” – Total Theatre UK (If There’s Not Dancing at the Revolution, I’m Not Coming

“It’s fascinating, clever and visceral; its sexual, sensual and delicious; it’s funny, angry, wild and punishing.” – TheatreReview (Power Ballad) 

MEDUSA plays:

Circa Theatre, Wellington  
as part of WTF! 2018 and New Zealand Theatre Month
Friday 21 September – Saturday 6 October 2018
Preview: Thursday 20 Sept  
Tuesday – Saturday, 7.30pm  
Sunday, 4.30pm  
Ticket price: $25 – $35 (booking fees may apply)
Buy tickets at

Loft, Q Theatre, Auckland
as part of theMATCHBOX 2018season
Thursday 25 October – Saturday 3 November 2018  
Preview: Wednesday 24 October  
Show times: TBC 
Ticket price: $25 – $35 (booking fees may apply) 
Buy tickets at


Theatre ,

1 hr

Reclaiming Female Rage

Review by Cynthia Lam 27th Oct 2018

Smashing all my preconceptions of what theatre and the mythological story of Medusa are about, co-creators Nisha Madhan, Julia Croft, and Virginia Frankovich have created an aural, visceral and mind-blowing ‘out-of-this-world’ theatrical experience.  There were no snakes in this production, no monstrous females, no men being turned into stone — but there was a lot of female rage, humour, intense sounds, and wit. 

Contradictions abound: the three women could not decide amongst them who to play Medusa, then decided that they should all play Medusa; there was no ‘hierarchy’ in this show — all three women shared the space equally, all had their voices heard.  So if you are looking for the conventional three-act structure following a typical narrative, then this show is not for you. Part-theatre, part-poetry, part-ritual, part-live performance, Medusa takes a sledge hammer to theatrical conventions, boldly and unapologetically. [More]


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Emotional anarchy, comedic, purgative, liberating, enhanced by a walkout

Review by Elspeth Tilley 29th Sep 2018

At precisely the same moment I sit down with my daughter in a darkened room to see Medusa, on the other side of the world a woman who had always wanted confidentiality is being asked to share in detail her “strongest memory” of being assaulted, with a viewing audience of more than 11 million people.  

As a response, antidote, cry of outrage against that situation, Medusa could not be more apt.

We enter the dark and enfolding space of Circa 2 to find three women seated on stage. Eyes closed, faces etched with a profound fusion of sadness and stoicism, they wait in stillness.  And wait.  And wait.  Wait for us to do something?  Wait for the world to change?  Wait for ‘me too’ or ‘we too’ to become, finally, ‘enough, this has to stop now’? 

We enter the space and time of their waiting and breathe with them.  In that dark, quiet, warm space, there is no chatter of smartphones, tweets, video heads shrieking at each other, only the live flesh and blood of three women (Nisha Madhan, Julia Croft and Virginia Frankovich) sitting, waiting.  We connect with them in their seeming resignation to pain.  It feels familiar.  I venture to say it is familiar to every woman. 

Two young women enter the theatre, late.  They find their seats noisily.  The performers’ eyes snap open, gazes locking onto the latecomers, following their movements, staring them down.

The latecomers laugh self-consciously.  Are these young women part of the show?  Their giggled intrusion fits so perfectly with the line uttered later “You laugh because you feel uncomfortable.” 

Perhaps latecomers can simply be relied upon at every show.  It’s hard to disengage from Twitter long enough to arrive places on time.  I’m not being sanctimonious: it’s true. On our way to the theatre I had been glued to my own phone so closely I tripped over a parked bicycle. 

This is one of the reasons why live theatre is so important. It is a wholly different mode of relating, thinking, being and feeling. It rushes into the sense of emptiness left by vapid pixels and soundbites and fills it with human contact, with action and reaction. It nourishes. We do not feel like a passive audience, but part of something.

Awakened now, the performers switch their gaze in perfect unison to the source of any noise – a cough, a rustle from the lighting box, footsteps on the floor above.  They split apart into three distinct physical refrains, each interweaving with the other performers’ physicality to create a three-part harmony of movement.  Then, they begin to stare back at the audience, intently, returning the gaze with which we have penetrated them while they sat, vulnerable and blind. 

I begin to feel, uncomfortably, the extent to which I had assumed a privileged right to gaze, upon entering the room.  A theatre patron, comfortable enough to afford a ticket – advantaged, and bringing with me conventional expectations of my entitlement as a member of the audience class.  I had scrutinised them.  Soaked up titillating details of costume (leather and metal peeking out at the collar, laced black boots, tight jeans) while they silently absorbed my gaze.

I had projected certain emotions onto them, made assumptions about my role as audience and theirs as performer.  Expected them to ‘perform’.  To give me my ‘money’s worth’.  Above all, I had assumed my right to ogle.  As they begin to gaze back, challenging me, I drop my eyes. 

Like every woman on the planet, I have been objectified, cat-called, subjected to a male gaze that zoomed in on my breasts or lips and that I found unwelcome and reductive.  Yet it was shocking and instructive to discover just how easily I myself had slipped into that mode of wielding the power-gaze, given the opportunity. The parts of me that are white and cis-gender became instantly more visible in their constant dialogue with the parts of me that are female.

We are not even ten minutes into the show and I have had my worldview shunted, my understanding of my own identity enlarged, my complacency profoundly undermined. This is what good theatre does.

As we entered the theatre we had been given bright green ear plugs. I have held them anxiously in my hands, in case needed.  There is a sudden roar of light and sound and I think ‘now’ but actually it is perfectly calibrated, loud enough to give the sense of being directly and ferociously assaulted with volume, but not damaging. I put the ear plugs away.

We are into a second phase of the performance – a beautiful and violent aural fugue of contrapuntal voices, looped sounds and triadic tableaux, all created live on stage.  It is exemplary Theatre of Cruelty, chaotic yet delivered with precision and originality. It wakes us up, stimulating nerves and spirit, plunging us into a surreal sense of emotional anarchy, freeing the constrictions around what it is polite to say or think, here with a vehement gendered articulation – women are angry, it is raw, and we are finally, finally face to face with it. It feels deeply satisfying to see it released, at the same time as it feels acutely sad that we need to feel such rage. But we do. We so do.   

This was Antonin Artaud’s aim in Theatre of Cruelty, responding to the social and political insanities of his own times – mass warfare, inequality, stifling class divisions and traditions – to immerse his audiences in an avant-garde, combative aesthetic of outrage on stage. It is no less appropriate to the utter madness of our own time.

The looped dialogue begins to take on theatre itself, or at least conventional ‘well made’ three-act narratives. To me, this feels wholly appropriate. I find myself nodding vigorously.  There is a growing awareness among theatre makers that Aristotelian plot structures were, well, obviously, set down in writing by a man.  In a patriarchal context.  And that, actually, the idea of a hierarchy of characters with heroes and ‘extras’, where the heroes drive the action and are faced with all the crucial decisions that advance the story, and the others are just ‘bit parts’ with no real causal power, has served patriarchy rather well.  And that simply swapping in non-male heroes doesn’t rearrange the underlying power structures that are being shown to us, over and over again, on our stages and screens.

In Medusa, there is true equality between the performers – nobody is less important than the others. They take turns leading the dialogue and at one point descend into a highly amusing and clearly deliberate meta-theatrical sequence of confusion about who is supposed to be speaking first.

It’s a well-placed moment of comedy to break the spell of thundering indignation. “We’re losing them,” they tell each other.  “You can leave,” they tell the audience. Nobody dares move, at least not yet. “Career suicide,” they comment about their own performance. “And to think she trained for three years for this.” They play with what they know will inevitably be some reactions of incomprehension and hostility to their work.

We enter the third phase of the work.  The three women stand, backlit, holding crowbars and hammers.  Their faces morph imperceptibly from blank and accepting to utterly menacing.  The air shimmers with threat.  I find myself mentally willing them to smash something, urging them to hit out.  It’s everything I want by this point.  And then they do, taking to the set and smashing it apart.  It’s utterly purgative and liberating.

It’s also definitely not the kind of work that used to be Circa staple – but increasingly is.  Still, some of the audience members are perhaps more used to the old, traditional, predictable Circa fare with neat plot and recognisable characters. 

Some patrons in the front row who, how shall I put this politely, should be mature enough to know better how to behave with respect for other audience members when at the shared experience that is live theatre, begin to grumble, loudly, and then break into sniggers.  It’s pretty rude.  My teenaged daughter spontaneously shushes them and I have to say I wholly agree with her.  They’re behaving in exactly the way they would be irritated with and judgemental about if a teenager interrupted their viewing of the key moments of a kitchen sink drama with some inappropriate tittering.  Then I’m reminded of the line earlier in the play “You laugh because you feel uncomfortable”.  I guess these people feel uncomfortable – and then they prove it by getting up and walking out.

What they don’t appear to understand is that they’ve just proven everything Medusa is showing them: that they’ve become part of the show in the same way the latecomers fit right into the opening metaphor.  Their walkout has embodied the establishment’s discomfort with having women’s gaze turned back on them, women’s anger enacted but not in the safe, linearly plotted way they wanted, women’s voices loud and unrestrained and repeated over and over again at high volume.  Their reaction actually enhances the performance somehow.

We enter the final phase. There is clay, there is a gentle depiction of women’s support for other women, of the bonds between woman and woman, mother and child, of the makeup women plaster on ourselves to face the world, allusions to the snakes on Medusa’s head but as a kind of chosen and necessary armour against the world rather than an aberration or abomination.  At least this is what I take from it – others will have their own take and, again, this is why we need theatre: to connect with each person where they are at in a small dark room and to feed their need, even if that need is to walk out. 

In the hours after Medusa I am examining all my own reactions and learning more about my assumptions, my privilege, and my suppressed emotions.  I am feeling I have had encouragement, a go-ahead, to be more angry. Which is a good thing. Anger is an energy. Medusa is an energy. And I am profoundly grateful I got to experience it.  


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Will evolve and mature into something sublimely monstrous

Review by Sam Trubridge 23rd Sep 2018

A review in three parts 


i am a man
i am a male voice
this work voices itself as a response to male structures
it looks at the myth that a man took home
from not meeting a woman’s gaze
but this show isn’t about him
this show is not about me
it is about that woman

the artists call it a theatre poem
the artists say they prefer beginning in the middle
mess and nonsense can be productive
this writer might say the work is unfinished
but this writer might be wrong
this writer might also change their mind

please understand that this is not theatre
understand that this is LIVE ART
an artist can strike the canvas with their brush
or gouge the clay with their knife
and will not be asked what it means
a performer on stage makes a sound
and another performer makes a sound
they don’t need to mean anything
but sometimes they do
they are not characters or actors
they are performers instead
they might be medusa and her two sisters
but they don’t have to be
they might be macbeth’s witches
but they don’t have to be
they might be the three furies
but they don’t have to be

nobody knows what medusa looked like
because nobody could look on her and survive
so how do we know
how can we believe the tale that we are told
how do we believe the tales that we tell
she could be any one of these three
virginia nisha or Julia
she could be none of them
she could be beginning middle and end
they are looking for a different structure
they may not have found it

but this is LIVE ART
so we don’t have to tell a story
perhaps structure is perseus’ sword
cleaving through flesh
perhaps nothing has to happen
perhaps nobody has to be anybody or anything
we could stare at each other all night
waiting for something to pass
we could gaze and gaze and gaze all night
and think about a woman’s gaze
or medusa’s lonely gaze
that never met another eye that wasn’t made of stone
we could gaze and gaze and gaze all night
did I meet their gaze

medusa’s eye was a weapon
and her voice was a wound
a scream in the ruins
voices are like paint
sometimes they sing
sometimes they shout
sometimes they say something
sometimes they make stories or tell pictures
but sometimes they just howl
sometimes they are three voices
sometimes they are too many voices
sometimes their voices sound like too many pictures 

LIVE ART can use voices in this way
because voices are also the croaks
the groans
the whispers
the click of spittle
or the rush of air across vocal chords
her voice is a wound
a throat where the head should be

sometimes performances have secrets
sometimes you have to be there
sometimes knowing is not knowing
sometimes knowing is betrayal
sometimes the ground opens up
and nobody says a word

because if you survive medusa’s gaze
perhaps its better to not tell of what you have seen
perhaps that would turn her to stone
making her flesh harden
perhaps those men who survived her
told such hideous stories
to make a monster of her
making scales of flesh and blood
making a figure into a character
making a character into a myth
turning a body into actor or actress
making her into a beast of the theatre

sometimes bodies mean something
sometimes bodies mean nothing at all
sometimes flesh is like clay or stone
sometimes what you see is exactly what it means
sometimes the earth really does open up on stage
sometimes clay becomes flesh
sometimes heads really will roll
but not always
if you look too hard
you might see her
you too might turn to stone


For those wanting to know what happens – it is a show about Medusa. She is embodied by three performers who each intone and physicalize their own dimensions of this mythical woman. At first they stare at us, for a long time, for what might feel like a whole act, if three-act structure is their thing. But when they speak in unison they tell us that it is not, and tell us that “If this was Berlin this would be the whole show”.

It has the character of a poetry slam – through harmony, disharmony, and polyphony they talk about “the dangerous female gaze, the dangerous female rage”. Their voices gradually slip out of synchrony into what could be described as a polyphonic vocal voice ritual. Everything is repeated, everything is in threes – from the three performers to the triangulated plinths they stand on, to their three synchronous voices. So I stand by my tautology – it is a polyphonic vocal voice ritual, using textual, textural, triangulated sound. Their oration progressively deconstructs into a sonic melee, with whirling microphones, live audio mixing (proximity triggered, sampling) – and Nisha Madhan’s blood curdling screams in reverse.

I am reminded of Vito Acconci’s  (1972) Seed Bed for some reason – perhaps it is through the intimate relationship that each performer has with the microphones, or the hollow angled platform/ plinths beneath them. I feel bad about this observation – because Acconci’s work really claimed gallery architecture as a space of male production and onanistic sexuality. [Spoiler alert…] So it is really satisfying when the performers reappear on stage with sledgehammers and crowbars, and hurl themselves at the stage. Chips of polystyrene fly everywhere as they each swing and hack with raw abandon. As they claw deeper into the wreckage, a layer of muddy clay is revealed. Climbing or jumping in, they begin to pile it onto their bodies, clawing the flesh of it, piling it high on their own flesh like tumescent growths or drooping rolls of fat.

It is a real coup for the meticulous and incredibly restrained design by Meg Rollandi, providing perfect pay-off for the stark minimalism shown earlier. Julia Croft revels in the shit of it, Nisha Madhan traces the track of meat from anus to mouth, Virginia Frankovich continues feeding feeding feeding the clay to a preposterous belly. In the last image they melt together in the half-light. […ends]


For those interested in my thoughts, I have one gripe. I would say that the new structure (or unstructure) that these artists are looking for may be a white elephant. It is discussed often within the text, in the printed programme, and in video interviews. So it is important to them. The show has some brilliant performances and design features, but at times seems laboured in its discordance, or over-preoccupied with being different.

It may just be opening night gremlins playing their part. Lines were missed and cues a little jumbled. But where deconstruction is so much a part of the work it is easy for the audience to get lost between what is intended and what is a cover-up. SoI sense that the work has spent too long searching for new structures, and not enough time with crafting the performance, and essentialising it around its core concepts.

With a two week season at Circa Theatre and a following season at Q Theatre in Auckland, the work will continue to evolve and mature into something sublimely monstrous.  


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