Antigone – Review – York Theatre Royal

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Antigone – Review

York Theatre Royal, October 2014

by Emily Lawley

Re-working a play that has been seen on stage across the world for over two and a half thousand years is no mean feat. Roy Williams takes Sophocles’ classic Greek tragedy and adapts it to make it relevant to a modern audience. In doing so he does not lose the effect and moral lessons of the original story.

The action centres around the children of incestuous Oedipus and Jocasta: Antigone, Esme, Eto’ and Orrin. Eto’ and Orrin kill each other in their quest to become King of Thebes. They grant Eto’ a holy burial on account of being an excellent soldier. But they leave Orrin in the street for the dogs for being a traitor. Despite orders to not touch or move Orrin’s body, the feisty Antigone defies Creo, the King of Thebes and her cousin. She covers her brother’s body to lay him to rest properly. Antigone’s disregard of Creo’s orders is made worse by the fact that she is dating his son, Eamon, much to Creo and his wife’s disgust. Antigone’s punishment is to be buried alive. Creo leaves her to die in this most horrific of circumstances in a vainglorious attempt to assert his powers.

“Whirlwind of action”

antigone york theatreThe setting of the Ancient Greek city of Thebes and the characters’ names remain largely true to Sophocles’ script. Although some of the names are shorter, like ‘Tig’ for the play’s eponymous hero. But everything else is in the modern day. The original scripts of Greek plays are more like poetry than prose. Williams creates the same flow and rhythm with his writing through the use of urban street language. The beginning and end of the play remain largely true to Sophocles’ script. They neatly bookend the whirlwind of action that ensues in-between.

The play explores how modern society might deal with these extreme situations. Video and mobile phones play a big part in identifying that it was Antigone who covered her brother’s body. You can imagine how the snippets of information, videos and sound bites about the incident would appear on social media today.

“Terrible consequences”

Antigone is only 95 minutes long with no interval. So the stage is used very cleverly to depict many different settings. The backdrop of the stage also acts as a large screen to project video clips. It shows what is being watched on smartphones by the soldiers, or the narrative and memories that are running through Creo and Antigone’s heads.

antigone review yorkThe beauty of the play is that one can relate to the characters and the relationships on stage, as well as all of the difficulties that each character is facing. The struggle of a teenager, Eamon, against strong parents who are trying to push him in certain directions depicts well. Creo’s battle to assert his power over his soldiers and public is key to the play and, ultimately, results in terrible consequences.

“A balance to the drama”

The Pilot Theatre cast is truly fantastic. It does feature some familiar faces from well-known TV shows like Casualty, Dr Who, Skins and Eastenders. Savannah Gordon-Liburd’s portrayal of Antigone is brilliant. She is strong-minded and passionate. She stands up for what she believes in and doesn’t bend at any point during her ordeal.

Mark Monero’s depiction of Creo is also one of the highlights. He is full of grandeur and mindless assurance that his is the only way to live – to rule by fear. What is surprising for a classic Greek Tragedy are the elements of humour that are thrown in occasionally by Creo’s soldiers. They have the audience laughing out loud – a great balance to the drama. I find myself completely engrossed in the play. In fact, I momentarily forget that I am in a theatre – definitely the sign of a great performance.

Antigone is cleverly made and contemporary without losing the message of tragedy that is at the heart of the original play. I will definitely be looking out for more of Pilot Theatre’s performances in the future. A roaring success.

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