LabFest 2012: Occupied @theatre503
Playwrights plays: Roy Williams chooses the witty and well observed Abide With Me

Antigone review and why I want a radically modern production of a Greek Tragedy

AntigoneAntigone is probably the most rounded Greek tragedy I've seen so far in terms of plot. I normally spend my time while watching the ancient Greek dramas re-writing story lines in my head so as to maximise dramatic tension.

Didn't feel I had to do that with this, it's a straight forward debate between family loyalty and duty to the state. Antigone's brothers have been killed in battle. One was fighting for their uncle, King Creon, the other against. The loyal brother is given burial while the disloyal, Creon decrees, is to be left where he fell on pain of death. Horrified that her brother won't be accepted into the afterlife Antigone buries her brother and gets caught in the process by Creon who decides he can't make exceptions for family. 

And it is all nicely done, given a cold war setting in the operational HQ of the King complete with glass walled offices, desks, filing cabinets and telex machines. Christopher Ecclestone is a scary, determined Creon (I've only ever seen him play formidable and therefore scary characters) while Jodie Whittaker's determination as Antigone has a stoicism and stubbornness.

There is a bit of extraneous stagey-ness with the ensemble all stopping for a beat in between scenes which I don't think added anything in particular to the atmosphere or tension of the piece.  It is also a personal frustration that Greek scribes put the climactic scenes behind closed doors and let a muse tell you what happened.

One day, I will see a truly modern rendering of a Greek Tragedy in which the director puts all the action on the stage. Some will call is sacrilege but I will inwardly cheer that the best bit isn't unfolding story time-style. It's not that the recounting of the tragedy is normally badly done, far from it, but it just always feels a little odd to suddenly unfold events, the crucial dramatic moment, out of sight.

In the Antigone I'd like to see, I can just feel the tension as we see the relenting and regretful Creon desperately digging away at the rocks of his niece's prison to free her before it is too late only to find a double tragedy. 

But I can't knock the National's production for adhering to an original text so I'll just shut up. I'm going to give Antigone four stars. It runs in rep until 21 July.