The last time I ‘did Greek’ was the NTS’s production of The Bacchae with Alan Cumming. Fabulous as it was, I was not entirely sure what was, quite literally, going down on stage. But the old stories are the best stories and this accessible reworking of Sophocles’ Antigone by Jean Anouilh made an exceptionally absorbing hour that lives up to Emanuel Theatre Company’s press. Set in a war-torn city in 1943, the small venue helps convey the production’s sense of tension as the cast move amid the audience and eavesdrop on the stage action.
The Antigone of the title is true to her name and battles against the will of men, particularly that of her uncle Creon, making her perhaps the original feminist. This is a girl who is prepared to die for her beliefs and no man can put her in her expected place. In fact, Creon is left without niece, son and wife for his refusal to go against the system and society’s expectations; all the once powerful man has is his army and his indifference.
It is hard to believe that this cast are so young, with stellar performances from Olivia Ditcham as Antigone (with a passion that would make a Pankhurst proud), Samuel Mitchell as Creon (an authoritarian presence delivered with scary intensity) and Joe Quinn as Haemon (convincing tears that shocked and moved in equal measure). In amongst the angst, the soldier guard provided some welcome humorous relief with great characterisation. The chorus was sharp, with the young women beautifully dressed in wartime chic - all red lipstick and victory rolls in their hair. Watch out for the moment of sheer poetic storytelling from a young man in a knitted tank-top (and that’s one of the strangest sentences I will possibly ever write).
Emanuel School founder Lady Dacre would be delighted to know these young people, some 400 years later, are still upholding her aims.
If you think your family is somewhat dysfunctional, do come and see how the descendants of Oedipus lived and loved. In fact, brick up your niece and steal her ticket.