Eleventh Hour Theatre’s fresh and admittedly interesting take on Sophocles’ Classic tragedy presents a new spin on the classic tale that, whilst successful enough, fails to realise its full potential. Set in the struggling city-state of Thebes following its brutal civil, our story see’s the newly crowned King Creon declare that his nephew, Polyneices, a traitor to Thebes, be denied proper burial. His stubborn niece Antigone, however, has other ideas.
A good show that I would recommend any fans of the classics to see this festival
The production attempts to comment on the war on terror and very modern day concerns over national security and public safety, by drawing a parallel between Creon’s authoritarian denial of his own nephew’s burial rights and the infringement of citizens right to privacy in an effort to keep them safe from terror attacks. The idea certainly has some merit and to the show’s credit it does a wonderful job of creating a paranoid atmosphere of media saturation gone wild. The choice to play overlapping sound bites from real life news reports on terror attacks and some stellar choreography work very well in creating an oppressive mood that keeps you on edge. The problem however is that the show’s attempt to sustain this link falters as the plot progresses. The choice to use the play’s original text means any references to terrorism are fairly superficial and implied rather than outwardly discussed, and as the characters settle into the meat of the play, i.e. discussing the merit of obedience to state versus obedience to god or a family, all in the backdrop of ancient Greek ship, you soon forget the terrorism connection was ever made.
Despite this the performances are uniformly compelling, Elise Ireland’s Antigone is a firebrand hitting just the night note of righteous anger and all too human fear of mortality to make her an inspiring rebel whilst still keeping her human. Jake Deasy too does a wonderful job as Creon, doing his best to find the humanity and pathos in a character that could all too easily come off as a monstrous caricature. Despite working with the archaistic language the young cast don’t let it get the better of them, and are able to draw the emotion and resonance from the text that turns it from long ponderous speeches into beautiful poetry.
It really is a very polished performance of text, and that is part of the problem. By lights up the production seems to have forgot the whole point of the exercise, with the discussions it was so keen to have at the start forgotten about and we are left with just an enjoyable enough take on a classic text and nothing more. This is a shame as the company at times really seemed to be onto something important about the paranoid times we live in, but this never lasted. In the end Antigone is a good show that I would recommend any fans of the classics to see this festival, and I remain hopeful the company will go on to improve and innovate in the future.