Widely trailered as a fabulous re-enactment of of Sophocles Greek tragedy, the King’s Theatre’s first night of Antigone played to a packed audience. Â With actors and scenes of drama of a very high calibre, rarely, as a reviewer and occasionalÂ performer, have I experienced such a gripping theatrical offering.
Juliette Binoche plays her part as Antigone – an early example of a true feminist and much more besides – with passion and conviction. Brilliant actor, Patrick O’Kane as Kreon, is uncle and guardian of Antigone and her sister Iseme (played by Kirsty Bushell). So beginÂ the bitter verbal exchanges over the deaths of their brothers, and Kreon’s opinion of his own unalienable right to decree what should happen to the corpses and his own right to rule Thebes following the end of the bitter civil war.
The stage set is minimalist and dramatic. A huge moon, brilliantly lit in all its phases – from new to full – Â hangs dominantly over the stage and theÂ background is softly lit. Â There is a quietÂ video scene of modern day in contrast to the main action – supporting rather than detracting from the battles being conducted verbally and physically in front of it.
The ‘Chorus’ comprising senior advisors and including the actors in their dual rule are summoned by the still despotic Kreon to advise on the way ahead for Thebes. Allegedly Kreon believes this should be a democratic process but only if he agrees it. Initially the Chorus means to be non-judgemental but quickly turns on Antigone, blaming her for the tragedy of the unburied bodies of the two brothers who were meant to share power following the death of their father. But the brothers had met a violent death during the civil war.
I found it impossible to single out any of the actors to praise more than others; Â each of them was a brilliant example of personal talent being almost subsumed to portray such drama as highlights the aftermath of Â conflict. The terrible wars and lust for power, mitigated by some individuals with the courage and integrity to speak out against tyranny, was acted out with such conviction it reminded me how the circle still turns.
In between the arguing, bitter words and some violence, flashes of humour lighten the atmosphere, rippling round the audience in a way unexpected but, I felt, bringing us together within the action unfolding on the stage in front of us.
Ivo van Hove, the director of the play and his team will, I believe, be rightly proud of this production. The play runs on the advertised dates until 22nd August. So there is still time for Lothian Life readers to try to get along to this wonderful play.
The Kings Theatre, Edinburgh