by Gareth Jandrell after Aeschylus and Sophocles
New Diorama 15-16 Triton Street NW1 3BF In rep to 22 February.
7.30pm 15, 17, 18, 22, 31 Jan, 5, 8, 14, Feb 7pm 19 Feb (plus discussion) Mat 1 Feb 11am, 22 Feb 3pm.
Captioned 5 Feb.
TICKETS: 020 7383 9034.
then Greenwich Theatre Crooms Hill SE10 8ES.
26 Feb 7.30pm, 1 March 2014 3pm.
TICKETS: 020 8858 7755.
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 11 January.
Vivid dreams and nightmares of a city.
I hope Gareth Jandrell will rework his Thebes, for it has areas of weak expression, from the grandiose to a tendency to generalise points in pungent Anglo-Saxon four-letter words (so satisfying to write, so feeble in repeated hearing). He also sets out his theme immediately, without first involving us in the action.
Yet he’s taken an innovative approach to the stories of Greek tragic playwrights Aeschylus and (especially) Sophocles about this provocative city-state. Thebes itself becomes the focus for the continuing story of King Oedipus, its rightful yet wrongdoing king, followed by the contest for power between his sons, the efficient autocracy of his brother Creon and the rebellion of Creon’s daughter Antigone.
Aeschylus’ Seven Against Thebes provides a slim central slice, where power- sharing arrangements between Oedipus’s sons break down leading to a conflict killing them both, at which Creon takes power.
Cary Crankson’s Creon balances conscience and authority; not a born dictator he’s pushed towards autocracy as he emerges from the sideline of power. It’s a well-judged performance where strong practical arguments lead to decisions which destroy his family as surely as Oedipus’ innocently committed sins did his.
It also helps the rebellious Antigone become more complex than the humane heroine she often appears. In a brief comic interlude she’s seen exiled, scrubbing her clothes by the river, disdainfully rejecting the love of Creon’s son Haemon. Derval Mellett brings out the Irish tones in her voice to express a self-protecting wariness and distancing of emotions in a life where little’s been kind.
Her lean, defiant figure asks no sympathy as she opposes Creon, despite warnings from her less absolute sister Ismene, whom Kate Sawyer gives a more open emotional range, till a final apotheosis where Antigone’s born aloft, a crucified Christ-like figure.
But it’s the crowd that defines the city. From a pulsing muddle, through ordered rows, to a fearful shuffling huddle or rolling tide, they express Thebes in a production by Rachel Valentine Smith where the tireless visual groupings always intensify theme, action and Jandrell’s overall debate about the conflicting pulses of political freedom, power and authority.
One: Jeryl Burgess.
Polynices: Andrew Chevalier.
Creon: Cary Crankson.
Tiresias: Mark Leipacher.
Eteocles: Alexander Guiney.
Megareus/Guard: Christopher Hughes.
Herdsman: Damian Lynch.
Oedipus: Lachlan McCall.
Messenger: Jonny McPherson.
Antigone: Derval Mellett.
Haemon: Tom Radford.
Jocasta/Ismene: Kate Sawyer.
Director: Rachel Valentine Smith.
Lighting: Chris Withers.
Sound/Composer: Simon Allen.
Projections: Martin Dewar.
Voice coach: Simon Money.
Fight director: Roger Bartlett.