Belt Up's 'Antigone'

The fantastically immersive theatre of Belt Up has once again managed to captivate the minds of their audiences, with a new adaptation of Sophocles’s ‘Antigone’, reworked into mostly modern speak and garnished with newly added words of potently apt exposition and emotion.We enter into a sombre atmosphere; glasses are raised to the dead with the air of beige optimism that tints a period of mourning. Crickets and insects chirrup throughout – we as the audience were, in my mind at least, sat within a tranquil glade on a hilltop: Antigone’s favourite haunt. The plot unravels in a disjointedly retrograde fashion as we learn of the events explaining the toast to the deceased: brothers Polyneices and Eteocles, fighting for opposite sides, slew each other in battle, and King Creon has forbidden the burial of and delivery of proper rites to the ‘traitor’ Polyneices. His defiant sister Antigone, however, does so anyway – after fruitlessly appealing to her sister Ismene – and she subsequently faces her final hours with her fiancé Haemon, Creon’s son, before submitting to death by Creon’s hand, under penalty of his law.The acting was, on the whole, stunning – particularly commendable was Ismene, whose inability to emulate her sister’s rebelliousness manifested itself in a truly tragic performance of torn allegiances and a broken heart. The balance between realism and physical theatre was perfectly struck – some excellently choreographed fights between the dead brothers are interspersed between the powerful duologues; the encounter between Creon and his son Haemon stood out in particular, with an almost palpable sense of Creon’s struggle between indissoluble paternal love versus his role as king – do right by family, or by the state?The piece is also sprinkled with live music and singing – songs echoing the sentiments of a scene gone by, often with contemporary dance to match. Occasionally one did find that these emotionally-charged musical moments, framing the already intensely high-octane scenes, piled on perhaps a touch too much pressure of emotional burden – even the lighter moments of intimacy between the characters were laced with a heavy poignancy of what was to come, meaning the experience resulted in feeling a little relentless at times. This was, however, nothing to complain about – purpose over frivolity is always preferred, and the quality of the acting means the play constantly feels real and alive.The penultimate scene between the four central characters, under the tree and starlight, was an absolute highlight. The foursome dance – a dance that is hauntingly beautiful in its imprecision and naturalism and astoundingly complemented by the evocative piano music flowing around them. Due to the nature of Belt Up’s audience seating I was practically inside the piano – and this only served to absorb me a hundredfold more into the tragedy that is to follow.A beautiful and haunting production; by no means perfect – but then, neither is life. A must-see.

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The Blurb

Critically acclaimed company return with a dynamic and rejuvenating rendition of Sophocles' masterpiece. A melodic portrait of a family in the wake of devastation. Edinburgh International Festival award winners, 2008. Book early. 'Exhilarating' **** (Guardian on 'The Trial'). www.beltuptheatre.com

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