Antigone at theSpace @ Surgeons Hall (Venue 53) by Eleventh Hour Theatre is a brave production for any theatre group to attempt, let alone one with such a young cast. This work credited to Sophocles is nearly 2,500 years old, but somehow its words have continued to resonate throughout the centuries since its first performances.
This is at heart a simple tale following the aftermath of a bitter civil war for control of the city of Thebes and the victor King Creon’s descent into a dictator as he decrees that two brothers who have fallen in battle be given completely different fates depending on what side they fought. The one who fought on his side is a hero with full honours, the other a traitor to be left to rot on the battlefield and denied even a burial to be reclaimed by the Gods. Antigone (sister of both brothers and niece of King Creon) defies King Creon’s decree, and her punishment is death. The Gods themselves extract a bitter price from King Creon for his arrogance.
The scene set for a less than cheery story for an afternoon’s entertainment, I was curious to see how this play would transfer to a one hour format. While keeping the main bulk of the story, there is a little twist to it here as we move to examine modern police states and dictatorships against a background of terrorist attacks since the destruction of the Twin Towers in the USA. This overlay of ancient and modern works to some degree, but I would rather that they had chosen to go with one setting or the other.
This work pretty much in the end rests on who is playing the main roles, and Jake Deasy (Creon) and Elise Ireland (Antigone) are good in their respective roles, and it will be interesting to see how they develop as actors over the years. This is a work that when performed often has a far more experienced cast, and the last time I saw this play performed was at last year’s Edinburgh International Festival when Juliette Binoche played the part of Antigone. It is totally unrealistic for any reviewer to compare the experience levels between that cast and this one, and I hope that none tries to.
This is an ambitious piece of work by a young cast and taking on a Greek classical play like Antigone is a very brave move to make...Does it work?..overall, yes.
Review by Tom King