Jingan Young’s Antigone After Sophocles sets the ancient tragedy against the backdrop of the 2011 London riots. Antigone is a popular play for adaptation because of the lasting relevance of the questions it raises. Must we obey the law if doing so compromises our personal convictions? What is the relationship between power and gender? How does family loyalty tie into these questions? Such productions as Don Taylor’s at the National in 2012 have presented these issues in a thought-provoking way.
Young’s adaptation, however, fails to capitalise on the complexities of Sophocles’ drama. The agonised character of Creon (Tom Hilton) is one-dimensional, the burial rites of Polynices seem irrelevant in the 21st century while the strident protagonist, ‘Anne’ (Zoë Bullock) is rendered sullenly inarticulate. The missing connection to the plot’s ancient source was rivalled only by the unskilful incorporation of the London riots, which served mainly as a distraction. The newsreels used to cover every scene-change were both lazy and irrelevant, showing neither development nor meaningful connection to the action of the play.
Whilst leaving behind most out-dated ancient Greek dramatic customs (such as having only three main characters onstage at once), this production does use a chorus, and to interesting effect. Their physicality and role transitions were well executed, but their over-zealous interference with the dialogue, exacerbated by the notorious challenge of choral speaking, left little room for independent character development. This, however, is a fault of the script. In fact, many of the limitations of this production arise from the play rather than the cast. Amber Hussain in her brief role as Teiresias was striking and demonstrated the power of good acting to lift a bland script. Ismene (Alice Porter), too, shone on occasion.
Essentially, this production failed to rework the ancient play innovatively, to explore the London riots with a fresh perspective and, most damningly, to draw any relationship between the two.
** (2 STARS)
PHOTO/ Mihail Hurmuzov & Lucie Dawkins