Directed/Translated by Rachael Bellis
at The Bread and Roses Theatre, London (Clapham) until September 22nd
Classic Greek tragedy Antigone gets a facelift in this new 80’s inspired production from Aequitas Theatre, even if this rendition could be sharper.
Fourty years ago, Thatcher condemned striking miners who dared to oppose her will. Set in the Durham landscape of this reality, Antigone defies Creon’s decree to bury her brother; begging the question, who is the real “enemy within?” Thatcher’s chilling catchphrase laid foundation to an age of terror that turned mining communities into outlaws. This revival merely hints at this volatile landscape. So, Creon (a Thatcher inspired ruler) inevitably falls prey to the pressures of power. Creon’s decisions are the product of a woman trying to thrive in a patriarchal system. Played by Mary Tillett, Creon is performed with subtlety and finesse, like a cobra in a plaid suit. She opposes beautifully against Natasha Ravenscroft’s indignant Antigone; a heroine full of courage and passion. Antigone embodies the ideology that everyone deserves justice, to be treated equally and with respect. Both opponents battle for conscience whilst showing resistance to the other’s views. Alongside these two strong women is Soroosh Lavasani’s policeman character who aims to give comedic rest bite to the piece. Unfortunately, and despite an entertaining performance, the comedy at times overshadows the potential gravitas of this piece.
The costume was a triumph. Well-co-ordinated and grounded in world, clearly showing the contrasts between the social classes and popping against the dark landscape of the stage. This disparity was emphasised further as the stage morphed from being clean and full of potential to being littered; following the narrative evolution of the piece.
The use of music could have been more effective. The transitions were at times too long and over-indulgent. The acapella singing was performed well although seemed random against the inherent 80’s music underpinning the piece. Reminiscent of Billy Elliot’s “Once we were Kings” but without the punch. Particularly when the audience were advised to join in one of the precipice moments echoing feelings of being forced to sing a hymn in church rather than a revolution.
In short, this revival is ambitious; using a small cast in multiple roles to the detriment of the pace, clarity and stakes of this important play. The chorus was missed. The political landscape and implications of Creon’s and Antigone’s actions for the community were unclear. As an audience member this ambiguity made it difficult to emphasise with the principle characters and their tragedy. But this rendition has potential and I hope Aequitas Theatre continue to develop this interesting work. Especially regarding the casting of Creon as female. This pivotal decision helped to pave a more complex narrative, commenting on different versions of female ambition and the sacrifices one makes to be a success.
© K.B 2018
This production is running at The Bread and Roses Theatre until the 22nd September. Book now.