The Raft of the Medusa

The fourth tour of The Raft of the Medusa since its creation in 2006 by The Company of Teachers (four Drama and English teachers working in collaboration with the Blahs and Rotherham LEA) will be performed at York St John University on Monday 14th October.

A participatory performance based on Theodore Gericault’s masterpiece of the same title which hangs in the Louvre gallery in Paris, exploring the story behind the painting.

In 1816 the Medusa led a small fleet of French ships, loaded with soldiers and settlers, on a colonial expedition to Senegal in West Africa. Just a dozen miles from the Senegalese shore the Medusa ran aground on a sandbank. Lifeboats and small crafts could provide safe passage for the fortunate or the powerful. But for some 149 men and one woman there was no immediate rescue. In a daring and desperate endeavour to save their lives, they used the timbers of the stricken Medusa to build a huge raft that might be towed to safety. Twelve days later just 15 survivors landed on the coast of Africa.

What had happened during those days on the raft? Why had so many perished? Was this a story of bravery and triumph… or was it one of desperation and savagery? As the emerging story of the raft of the Medusa stunned the French public, the artist Gericault began work on a masterpiece that was to shock French society and outrage the artistic establishment.