EFR - Reviews of Antigone

Antigone

Fri 3rd – Sat 11th August 2012

reviews

Hannah Buckley

at 08:44 on 4th Aug 2012

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Performing ancient Greek plays is always a risk. They have the potential to go horrendously wrong, because the tradition of drama design and format has changed so much over the centuries. Jean Anouilh's version was written during the Second World War and the German occupation of France, bringing an interesting backdrop to the ancient story. Emanuel Theatre Company brings a brilliant reproduction of this play, incorporating the time period of Anouilh whilst successfully retaining a lot of the ancient Greek traditional drama. Hats off to the directors Bethany Lee and Jake Brunger, who really used the venue’s space to create a brilliantly tragic atmosphere. I particularly liked the dramatic start to the show, which you were drawn in by as soon as you walked into the venue.

The story of 'Antigone' is read out to us by the chorus, who were led by wardens Albbie Amankona and Tilly Edgcumbe. All of the members were brilliant, and I liked the way they were used to direct the audience’s attention to different characters on the stage, and later to emphasise Creon's guilt for the death of Antigone. Most of the time, the actors were very clear and projected well, although at points lines were a little rushed. Amankona was an excellent leader of the chorus, bringing the strictness and authority of the war warden to the traditional Greek role.

There is some wonderful acting within the play, showing the great talent this theatre company has. I had goosebumps at Haemon (Joe Quinn)’s mourning of Antigone’s death sentence, and Samuel Mitchell’s portrayal of Creon really brought home the tragedy that he was fated to have from the beginning. ‘I’ve been cast as the villain and you the heroine’ he says to Antigone, and the tragedy of this is constantly emphasised not only by him, but by the whole cast. I also liked how the ‘keep calm and carry on’ attitude of the time was incorporated into the play: Creon continues with his ordinary means after the horrific events that happened, which makes it all the more tragic. Antigone herself, played by Olivia Ditcham, was astounding. She really helped show the pain and anguish Antigone feels for her brother’s death, as well as showing extraordinary bravery at facing up to Creon’s authority and her own sentence to death.

What made the play for me however was Jonas, played by Pip Williams. Playing a guard who you can’t help but love, Williams brings a bit of Sophoclean dark humour back into this version of this production. This of course makes the tragedy all the more tragic, emphasising the drama to the audience.

The play is well worth the money. It is a great rendition of Anouilh's version of 'Antigone' performed by some very talented young people. The hour flew by for me, and I’m sure that if you go and see it, it will for you too.

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Oliver Arnoldi

at 18:02 on 4th Aug 2012

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For such a famed and consistently produced play, the problem with a retelling of 'Antigone' is that it will not live up to its antecedents. More than this, the fact that Jean Anouilh’s Sophoclean-inspired piece is a classic in its own right means that the Emanuel Theatre Company’s task is two-fold: to do justice to the writing whilst also making such a time-honoured story their own. On both accounts they succeed, although the production as a whole is not faultless.

The strongest elements of the play are earmarked from the very beginning. For such a small space, the direction of Bethany Lee and Jake Brunger is immediately evident in the use of a triangular formation for the war-time chorus, acting as a single body of movement as the Warden (played brilliantly by Abbie Amankona) imparts the rudiments of the narrative, “The girl who will play the lead is sitting there in silence.” It is with this stark, self-referential style that ‘Antigone’ fosters an atmosphere of anxiety, augmented by the knell of an air-raid siren and the discordant tones of a street violinist. The Company’s close attention to production, almost more than the actors’ performances, is the factor that is responsible for commanding the audience’s attention.

This said, the performances themselves are not without merit. The protagonist is played strongly by Olivia Ditcham, whilst the stature and repose of Samuel Mitchell is perfect for the authority of Creon. However, the dramatic effect of some of the duologues is diminished by a lack of chemistry; the relationship between Antigone and Isemene (Ella Dale) seems too staid to live up to the tension that is meant to dictate their relationship. Nonetheless, credit must be given to Ditcham and Mitchell for their climactic final dispute, one in which the situation’s emotional intensity is matched by both characters. Joe Quinn’s portrayal of Haemon is believable too, with a breakdown on stage that is truly moving.

Yet fundamentally, the show is at its strongest when the ensemble is interacting as a whole. Lee and Brunger’s increasing use of the chorus as a reflection of Creon’s troubled conscience is very effective, and technical manager James Arnott’s subtle use of lighting is one that should be commended.

‘Antigone’ is certainly one to watch, but it is not the most captivating piece of drama. It offers some bold ideas and is thoughtfully directed, but ultimately it seems that at times the performances are not always matching the technical quality of the production.

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