by Sophokles translated by Anne Carson.
Barbican Theatre Silk Street EC2Y 8DS To 28 March 2015.
Tue-Sat 7.45pm Mat Sat 2.30pm Sun 3pm.
Audio-described 27 Mar.
Captioned 26 Mar.
Runs 1hr 45min No interval.
(all performances sold out)
TICKETS: 0845 120 7550.
Review: Carole Woddis 6 March.
Impressive to look at, less clear to work out.
Ivo van Hove’s production of Antigone starts with a visual bang: Juliette Binoche, a tiny figure struggling against a fierce wind in a desert landscape.
An iconic image, Sophokles’ heroine is nothing if not in rebellion. Over the years, she has come to represent any number of figures of resistance, notably kicking against the Nazi traces in 1944 Vichy France, in Jean Anouilh’s version.
In 2015, what does Binoche represent? It’s not entirely clear, appropriately for a play known for its ambiguities – though Antigone would seem to lend itself to an easy kind of polarisastion, is Antigone all selfless martyr, Kreon her uncle a cruel tyrant? Not necessarily.
Like Polly Findlay’s 2012 Olivier Theatre production, van Hove’s is set in modern dress. But while Findlay nodded towards repressive European regimes, van Hove is far more unspecific. Background landscapes indicate a possible Middle East setting, or Greece itself; then again, slow-motion smudged figures and a US city blanched out by heavy snow indicate an urban American vista. Van Hove’s final image as Kreon, crumpled by despair from the consequences of his inflexibility, is of a night-time city bright with lights with a song by Bob Dylan overlaid.
If Sophokles’ message is ultimately realised here for Kreon, it is less so for Antigone. Binoche beautifully conveys vulnerability and her own form of obsessiveness – a death-wish driven by an inner law to bury her outcast brother, forbidden by Kreon. But the tension between Patrick O’Kane’s impressive Kreon putting the man-made state before family and Binoche following her own instinctual family/blood duty, is less than clearly joined.
The pace of Van Hove’s production, the better perhaps to draw full measure from Anne Carson’s elegiac translation, is slow, slow. At moments with the magnificent Kathryn Pogson as Eurydike, Kreon’s wife and Chorus, this makes for wonderfully heightened drama. So too when a booming voice launched at Antigone, consigned to a living death by Kreon in a cave, cuts through the auditorium with `get on with it’.
By turns, personal, domestic and epic, van Hove’s Antigone ravishes the eye if not the heart or head.
Antigone: Juliette Binoche.
Guard/Chorus: Obi Abili.
Ismene/Chorus: Kirsty Bushell.
Haimon/Chorus: Samuel Edward-Cook.
Teiresias/Chorus: Finbar Lynch.
Kreon: Patrick O’Kane.
Eurydike/Chorus: Kathryn Pogson.
Body of Polyneikes/Boy: Toby Gordon.
Director: Ivo van Hove.
Designer/Lighting: Jan Versweyweld.
Sound/Composer: Daniel Freitag.
Video: Tal Yarden.
Voice: Patsy Rodenburg.
Costume: An d’Huys.
Dramaturg: Peter van Kraaij.
Presented by the Barbican in co-operation with Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg in association with Toneelgroep Amsterdam.
Co-produced by Edinburgh International Festival, Théâtre de la Ville-Paris and Ruhrfestpiele Recklinghausen and supported by the Netherlands Embassy.
World premiere in of this production of Antigone Luxembourg 25 February 2015.
First performance in the Barbican Theatre London 4 March 2015.