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Samuel Rees (Snakehead)

'Snakehead' dives into the complexity and challenges the traditional image of the well known greek myth 'Medusa'. This production takes a gig-theatre approach to examine issues around consent, accountability, class and the male gaze. We took the opportunity to speak to writer Samuel Rees to discuss this exciting production.


Firstly, can you tell us a little bit more about ‘Snakehead’?


Snakehead is a gig-theatre retelling of the Medusa myth. It’s the story of a woman, ‘M’ from a town in the middle of nowhere. One day, she meets a man and falls in love. From here, things start to unravel. It’s a play about power, about gender and class.


This production re-examines the Greek myth of Medusa. What similarities in the story does Snakehead have to the Greek myth?


In most iterations of the myth, Medusa was once a mortal woman. The god Poseidon was obsessed with her, and pursued her to the goddess Athena’s temple. In some versions of the story, Poseidon forced himself on Medusa, in others it was more consensual. Either way, Athena was offended that her temple had been desecrated and transformed Medusa into a Gorgon, whilst Poseidon faced no consequences. For me, this is a story about how the powerful avoid accountability, how they have the ability to shape a narrative. In that sense, all the fundamental beats of the myth are still there. It’s about how the blameless are transformed into monsters of one kind or another, how our lives are subject to forces outside of our control, whether this is a pantheon of gods or those with money and power.


This production explores a range of sensitive themes such as consent and accountability. What do you want the audience to take away from this production?


I think there are two levels on which our play operates. The origin myth of Medusa contains all the themes you highlight, and the story itself has a lot to say about how society functions. But I think you’re missing an opportunity if you don’t also have a broader conversation about how this character and her story is passed down to us. Why is it that so many people just see Medusa as a monster? This is especially important when you’re a male writer. So much of this stuff is wrapped up in the male gaze and how patriarchy distorts our understanding of the world. It’s an abdication of your responsibility not to additionally have that conversation with yourself. So Snakehead tries to tackle that, and hopefully an audience will see a writer and character grappling with these same problems in real time.


Why do you think that exploring these themes is so important in live theatre?


There’s huge value in coming together and breathing the same air, and acknowledging that we all live in a shared universe. Snakehead asks its audience to make a judgement on what they’ve seen, to collectively witness something. It comments on the culture we all live in, and a group of people existing in the same room can recognise that they themselves are part of that culture.


This production is being branded as a gig-theatre. What style of music can audience members expect?


The music is by an excellent composer called Max Welton. We worked hard to get the feel right. It’s massively exciting. There’s some dark experimentalism in the vein of Radiohead or Nine Inch Nails, but we also played with a lot of hyperpop influences like SOPHIE. There’s some beautiful stuff too. One track called ‘Beach’ is my favourite, it’s this quite simple piano ballad that just gets under my skin. Everything’s really explosive and intense, I’m very happy with how it all turned out.


What aspects of this production do you think will entice audience members to book tickets?


I think Snakehead offers a lot. The central performance from Sian Maxwell is absolutely exquisite. The music is blow-your-socks-off good. At the heart of it is (hopefully) a compelling and exciting story. It’s a play which will entertain you and simultaneously discuss some really important themes. We’ve tried to create something which is clever without making an audience feel stupid. It’s got compassion and attitude in equal measure. Think of it like getting a bear hug but then the bear bites you.


'Snakehead' runs at The Hope Theatre from the 6th June until 24th June. For more tickets and information, you can follow the link here.



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