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Theatre Review: Antigone

It seems that at every Secondary school there’s a teacher who everyone fancies. At my school, it was the head of Classics who almost every girl (and their mothers but let’s not discuss that) had a small crush on, hence the reason why Latin was a pretty popular GCSE choice at my school. And why several people ended up doing degrees in the subject. So therefore, when I saw an advert for Antigone on the wall of a tube station in the middle of the night, I jumped at the opportunity to go, remembering some pretty enthusiastic discussions about it from my youth.
When I discovered that Juliette Binoche was staring as Antigone, I was sceptical at best. How, I said, could a French actress act a Greek play in English? Well, whilst I’ve always found the hysterics of Antigone faintly irritating, I have to commend Binoche’s portrayal of an intensely stubborn young woman who is determined to bury her brother’s body, to the point where she will die for it.

 

However, Binoche’s performance aside, the play was faintly…exhausted. Whilst some could argue that, that might be because it was written over two thousand years ago (around 441 BC) it has to be something else, perhaps the perpetual mournful music which filled the theatre throughout the performance. For a play that’s often called the ancient Romeo & Juliette, I can’t help but think that it could have been a lot more passionate. They could have made more of, say, Creon’s passionate speeches about Antigone’s disobedience or his exasperation at his son’s refusal to give Antigone (who is engaged to him) up to her fate; to be buried alive.
That said, the scenery did well, with the Barbican’s large stage being transformed into a bleak landscape which was occasionally brightened up with some drab office furniture. Whilst some critics have complained that the distinctly low-key setting has sapped Sophocles’ tale of a feud between right and right of all its fire, I was a fan of the fact that we had no way of knowing where the play was set which allowed the audience to focus on the acting and the philosophical question of whether anyone is ever wrong or if they are merely on the other side of the fence to us.

 

Written by Tash Voase

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