HOW TO THINK THE UNHTHINKABLE
by Ryan Craig.
Unicorn Theatre (Clore auditorium) 147 Tooley Street SE1 2HZ in rep to 19 May 2012.
10.30am 10, 17 May.
1.30pm 3, 49, 11, 16, 17 May.
5.30pm 5, 12, 19 May.
Audio-described 16 May 1.30pm (sold out).
Runs 1hr No interval
TICKETS: 020 7645 0560.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 1 May.
Fair attempt to grasp a moral struggle from the dawn of theatrical time.
This is the tougher of the two plays for young people based on ancient Greek Tragedies by Sophocles that the Unicorn is presenting in its Clore Theatre. Antigone, its source, is very much better known (if not very widely to the intended 11-14 age range), and it is fewer years before young people might read or see the original – though plenty may never do so, or would find it helpful to have come by way of a piece such as this.
Yet it’s something of an Antigone without the princess. It’s quite a long time before she and her authority-compliant sister Ismene become apparent. Instead, writer Ryan Craig opens with his strong suit for audience interest, the comedy of the Guards who find the dead body of disgraced prince Polyneices has been buried, against strict royal command.
Craig builds his comedy, helped considerably by Alex Austin’s nimble performance, with an able running-gag about Guard Tom’s lack of luck in drawing the short straw for unpleasant tasks. All this is performed with a sympathetically casual air.
Elsewhere, though, the language tends to fall below what’s needed, an impression not helped by Ellen McDougall’s production, which has actors forcing cadences and straining for intensity. Nor do the resources allow, in numbers or staging, for the moments of political power.
Creon, the ruler, has ordered the non-burial of Polyneices as a pragmatic political ploy. It’s a compromise that comes up against the absolute loyalty of Antigone to her dead brother. And Creon’s well-intentioned order brings death all around.
Much of this complexity is jettisoned. And while Neill Sheffield’s Creon gradually develops a sense of the agonies his absolute commands have caused (Craig shows these being modified when the offender’s found to be a member of the family), his initial public declaration awkwardly seeks to capture the artificial phrasing of such speeches.
As if to compound the comparison, Signe Beckmann’s sandy design feels left-over from the companion play. None of which makes the production pointless. But the point is blunted, as a general emotional vehemence washes over the high-ranking characters and their motives.
Tom: Alex Austin.
Roy: Mark Monero.
Bo: Alexis Rodney.
Haemon: Edward Franklin.
City Elder/Ismene: Mercy Ojelade.
Creon: Neil Sheffield.
Eurydice: Sarah Vevers.
Antigone: Kanga Tanikye-Buah.
Director: Ellen McDougall.
Designer: Signe Beckmann.
Lighting: Shane Burke, Phil Clarke.
Sound: Jon Nicholls.
Fight director: Kate Waters.
Assistant director: Ibrahim Shote.