by Sophocles translated by Timberlake Wertenbaker.
Southwark Playhouse Shipwright Yard corner of Tooley St and Bermondsey St SE1 2TF To 18 June 2011.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Sat 3.15pm.
Runs 1hr 30min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7407 0234.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 25 May.
Mixes present and past with some good performances.
Though performed on a long, narrow rectangle, designer Simon Kenny incorporates classical Greek theatre features into this production. There’s a flat space, backed by a raised area, with a door – or gateway – at its centre. Down centre-front is an altar, a reminder that Greek tragedy debated essential issues in a religious frame.
Yet much of the stage is surrounded by high wire-mesh, suggesting a compound, with a dark corridor behind, where barely-glimpsed figures move or wail. This is also a modern conflict, where a guard demands Antigone and her sister show their ID, and where they flatten themselves against a wall to confer secretly on Antigone’s plans to give her brother a proper burial.
Her two brothers killed each other during a civil war. Kreon, taking control, gives one a hero’s burial and leaves the other to rot. It’s not a strong parallel for terrorism, as implied here; the point of honouring one is to prevent factionalism. Against such political considerations, Antigone insists on personal loyalty.
With the women wearing clothes suggesting tradition while male characters – from uniformed guards to trendily suited Kreon – appear in contemporary guise, Emily Stuart’s costumes assist director Tom Littler in eliding ancient and modern.
Perhaps Littler packs too much in: choral singing, incense swinging, swaying dances. On the modern side, Kreon’s entry is treated as a TV news item – though the interviewer’s questions become chorus speeches, technical crew and local cleaners joining in.
Several performances around Eleanor Wyld’s intense Antigone convey controlled emotion, helpful in showing humanity reaching extremes: Deborah Grant as Kreon’s wife, Roger Braban as Chorus Leader, and Christotpher Ragland, foregoing the usual comedy of the servant bringing news of the buried body for a soldier defending himself with a keen sense of justice despite fear of punishment.
The outstanding performance is Jamie Glover’s Kreon. Standing confidently at a dais for his opening press conference, Glover catches the tone and pacing of a politician speaking publically, later handling private anger and regret with an intensity seen through Kreon’s attempts at self-control as he comes to understand a changed situation – in all respects, a commanding performance.
Antigone: Eleanor Wyld.
Ismene: Daisy Ashford.
Kreon: Jamie Glover.
Euridike: Deborah Grant.
Haemon: Kane Sharpe.
Tiresias: Edward Petherbridge.
Guard: Christopher Ragland.
Messenger: Fanos Xenofos.
Chorus Leader: Roger Braban.
2nd Messenger: Roseanna Frascona.
Chorus Singer: Claire-Monique Martin.
Tiresias’ Guide: Reuben Williamson/Douglas Wood.
Chorus: Imanuel Orwi Ameh, Jessica Butcher, Stephanie Ellyne, Daniel Horn, Alex Nash, Fahad Salman, Jurgen Schwarz, Nadia Shash, Adrian Smith, Keshia Watson, Stephanie Yamson.
Director: Tom Littler.
Designer: Simon Kenny.
Lighting: Ben Cracknell.
Sound: George Dennis.
Composer: David Allen.
Musical Director: David Keefe.
Choreographer: Zahra Mansouri.
Associate director: Cecily Boys.
Assistant director: Josh Seymour.
Costume: Emily Stuart.