Gauloise cigarettes and classical gods

first_imgTo be Antigone is to be doomed, laments the Chorus of her play. While certainly not doomed as a piece of theatre, there are some flaws in this modern French adaptation of the ancient Greek play, which leave one unsure as to its true merit as a tragic piece. The staging and setting is cleverly done – deliberate positioning of the actors in the audience’s space makes for an atmospheric and energetic work, placing the emotions explored in the play in direct and unapologetic confrontation with the expectations of those watching it. The actors enter and exit through an archway at the rear of the stage, reminding the audience of the deliberately contrived nature of the play. This sits well with the emphasis on tragedy rather than on melodrama – according to the Chorus, tragedy is what it is because everything in it is inevitable, and can never be ‘real’ because the outcome is always known beforehand. So far, so good, and everything in the time-tested and renowned style of classical Greek theatre. But a difficulty arises when one considers the adaptation of the play. Anouillh’s version fails because it tries to be everything at once, and ends up being nothing. Neither a straightforward modernisation of the original, with updated plot and setting, nor a strictly “Greek” play, this script combines the battles and gods of the classical world with the coffee and cigarettes of the modern one and it just doesn’t work. Fortunately, the director (Alex Pappas) has managed to convey much of the original feeling of the play, with a pared-down style of directing that works well in the context of this style of theatre. The acting, too, is well-suited to the demands of Greek theatre – particularly Matt Shapiro’s portrayal of King Creon who is forced by the laws of Thebes to put Antigone to death for violating a religious decree. Shapiro manages to combine a subtle portrayal of sorrow, anger and powerlessness with the straightforward and unpretentious style of acting necessary to the script. He and Antigone (Helen Prichard) have a good chemistry onstage and both are at their best in the scenes in which they appear alongside one another. As Antigone, Prichard excellently captures the frustration inherent in the play – although at some points her portrayal becomes a little too childlike to be truly tragic. Overall the acting is good, with the dolefully melodic voice of Triona Giblin (the Chorus) providing an atmospheric background to the whole. Despite its flaws Antigone is worth seeing for the palpable energy pulsing through the performance, and the satisfaction of seeing something that is truly original.ARCHIVE: 1st week TT 2004last_img

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