In a sinister, dystopic setting, five women (‘The Chorus’) tell each other Sophocles’ story of Antigone.
With both parents dead and shamed their entire lives for their incestuous roots, a new tragedy befalls the children of Oedipus.
The brothers have slain each other in battle, and Creon, the new King of Thebes, forbids the burial of one of the brothers. He brands Polyneices a traitor of the Kingdom. Sister Antigone is convinced it is divine will and her duty to bury her brother, even if this means breaking the law. With a King too stubborn to bend his authority and a passionate Antigone on the other side, a haunting tale of oppression, divine will, leadership and family ties unfolds.
Writer Brendan Murray updated the Greek tragedy enough not to alienate modern audiences but maintained the storytelling of the original: by devising a framing narrative for the chorus, it feels less out of place and all obscure references within the original are either erased or explained within the performance. The chorus very much becomes a literal chorus by performing original music composed by Maria Haïk Escudero. This both condenses explanations and sets the atmosphere.
Theatre company Tales Retold created an original adaptation, told in a sharp to-the-point-fashion with an all-female cast. Actresses Amanda Bailey, Holly Campbell, Cassandra Hodges, Hester Kent and LJ Reeves convincingly change mannerism, voices and postures for their different roles. Moreover, they perform the songs without flailing, despite the lack of instrumental backing.
All individual components of this performance are truly interesting and creative, which is why it is a shame that it does not feel much more than ‘solid’. The singing is sometimes a bit overbearing to the actual storytelling and the framing narrative, while a great idea and device, remains too unclear to add value. This is especially unfortunate since it includes dynamics highly pregnant with meaning, and is almost more engaging than the main narrative.
Most notable are the eye-catching and enchanting dystopian set and costume design by Rachael Ryan, which could be straight from a film set.
Reviewed by Lisa Theresa Downey-Dent
Antigone is playing at the Hope Theatre until 12 March 2016