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Review of Antigone at Theatre Royal Stratford East

Antigone -Theatre Royal Stratford East, Gamba Cole and Savannah Gordon Liburd photo credit Robert Day

This new version of Sophocles’ Antigone is adapted by Roy Williams and puts the play in a modern, urban setting. It cuts the idea of a Greek Chorus which is a noticeable loss and also defies the Greek tradition of the action taking place off stage. In this production we not only see Antigone crying over the body of her dead brother, Polynices (renamed Orrin in this version), but also the death of Polynices during the war. To add to the modernisation of this piece, as with Polynices, other character names have been updated. Antigone is referred to as ‘Tig’, Creon as ‘Creo’, and Tiresias as ‘Tyrese’.

The script itself can sometimes feel a bit offensive and disrespectful to Greek Theatre as a genre, in particular Tyrese telling Creo ‘You are in deep shit’. Although this is a modern setting and the script matches the time and place, it feels wrong to call it by Antigone and a Greek play.

One of this productions redeeming factors is it sound design. The music fits well with the setting of the show and the underscoring blends well that it is sometimes unnoticeable during scenes. The set is very basic but again fits well with the shows setting and although Marcus Romer’s direction flows nicely from scene to scene, I feel as though the energy of some scenes was misjudged.

Doreen Blackstock’s experience shows in this company, proving the strongest member of this fairly young cast. In short, this is a very different way of presenting Greek Theatre and may appeal to younger audiences as a new, modern play. However, to people who like traditional Greek theatre, it is not for you.

2 gold stars

Review by Elliott Wallis

Roy Williams’ new version of Antigone re-imagines Sophocles’ tale about loyalty and truth, human nature and human behaviour in a contemporary world, creating a new piece of theatre that will reverberate with today’s audiences.

On adapting Sophocles’ Greek classic, Roy Williams said: “I was intrigued to know if it was possible to set Antigone in a world that I have written about before, i.e. the gangster culture that is too often the life of a lot of young people today. It has always disturbed me to hear young people say that being in a gang makes them feel powerful. But as we all know power does corrupt. Creon begins the play feeling all-powerful with his gang running ‘tings’ in Thebes. It is almost like he and others like him, have put aside other feelings that make us human, like love, insecurity, fear, and masculinity, in favour of a “live fast, die young” mentality.”

Antigone Rehearsal Video

Theatre Royal Stratford East:
ANTIGONE 19 February – 14 March 2015

Wednesday 25th February 2015


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