Monday, October 10, 2011

Sophocles’ Antigone Review

Sophocles’ Antigone – directed by Cordelia Spence
UEA Drama Studio

Antigone is a play that haunts the ages, her echoes ring throughout history and have been used to highlight many struggles in many cultures across the world. The single minded defiance of a ruler for the sake of what is true and proper is as incredibly poignant today as at any other point in history it has been adapted and performed. As director Cordelia Spence writes in her notes in light of the recent uprisings in Northern Africa the public spectacle of Antigone defying Creon rings as much through our twenty-first century current affairs as the City of Thebes.

The production was tightly directed and really well performed – there was no extraneous noise, much like the set it was sleek and surely handled. At all times it felt (as it should) that we were being guided along to the inevitable tragic ending of the play. Reception Studies of classical writing asks new performances to bring something of the current age to the work and this production does in some ways without removing it from a classical context. Creon is sharply assured with his silver hair and a silver suit and his guards parade in camouflage and heavy boots. As a character he is as much a modern politician with his glib phrases and cliché infused proclamations and it becomes his modern ideals that are fighting against the traditional way of the world.

The chorus can be a problematic presence in these works, but Cordelia Spence did not shy away from them as either a construct or a stage presence. Indeed they were used to great effect as dancers and gave a beautiful lyric quality to both the staging and the language of the play. Splitting the lines into two with the Reporter as a different character from the others worked to varying degrees throughout the piece but it did assist with scattering the action throughout time.

This edit of Antigone drastically reduced the pivotal scene of confrontation between Antigone and Creon. It effectively established that neither would budge in their position and then it moved on. This decision gave room for the well choreographed dance sequences and space for the dramatic confrontation between Creon and Haemon to not be rushed through towards the end but it did give less stage time for the real battle at the heart of the play. There was surprisingly little of Antigone and Creon confronting each other’s positions and then effectively negotiating the terms of her death.

Stagecraft wise Antigone was very impressive and although whoever did the set and costume weren’t acknowledged in the program those who did contribute do deserve recognition. The space was great and complemented the director’s vision. Make up artist Sarah Francis evoked magic and mystery as well as age and wounds and her skills shone under assured lighting. And if the production team is to be congratulated, so are the cast, all of which all produced great energy infused performances.

Antigone was an appropriate choice for our times and it will of course continue to be.

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