Venue: Seymour Centre (Chippendale NSW), Oct 6 – 22, 2016
Playwright: Sophocles (adapted by Damien Ryan)
Directors: Terry Karabelas, Damien Ryan
Cast: Andrea Demetriades, Anna Volska, Deborah Galanos, Elijah Williams, Fiona Press, Janine Watson, Joseph Del Re, Louisa Mignone, Marie Kamara, Thomas Royce-Hampton, William Zappa
Image by Marnya Rothe
In Damien Ryan’s adaptation of Antigone, a single word ‘terrorism’ leads the charge in transforming the ancient text into a story for our times. Language and its accompanying sensibilities are disarmingly modern in the suddenly new play, and we are compelled to engage with its ideas in a thoroughly contemporary manner. It makes us think about the inconvenient evolution of democracy in the age of social media, and the frightening consequences of vacuous personalities running for office. We confront the demonisation and scapegoating of people who have been turned into the public enemy du jour, and examine the eternal dilemma of making sacrifices for the greater good. Almost like a time capsule of culture as it stands, with many of today’s concerns contained in a tale from ages past.
The production encourages our minds to build associations between the unfolding story with our immediate realities, delivering resonances that can feel disparate and divergent, but direction of the work (by Ryan and Terry Karabelas) maintains a dramatic focus with its emphasis on characters and atmosphere. The use of percussive instruments provide tremendous manipulation to mood, and to meaning; Thomas Royce-Hampton’s ability to create just the right sounds at every crucial moment of tension is one of the show’s strokes of genius. The chorus is effectively utilised to steer our moral compasses, along with our emotions, for a theatrical experience that captivates our senses and intellect. It must be noted that there is an elegance and often very delightful approach to the chorus’ stylistic work that brings surprising texture to the show. Visual design is beautifully considered and confidently executed, with Matt Cox’s lights and Melanie Liertz’s set, impressive from the very start.
It is an appealing cast, fortified by excellent chemistry and timing, exuberantly alive for the entire duration. Andrea Demetriades is an earthy Antigone, restrained and almost minimalist in performance style, but consistently believable. More could be made of her crises, that will allow the actor greater space to showcase her abilities, and for us to feel closer to the plight of Thebes’ people. Courage, determination and strength of will are Antigone’s dominant qualities, but they are often left offstage. We witness the aftermath of her heroic deeds, but not the very moments of bravery that are central to how we know her to be. When Antigone defies the demands of community and the state’s decree, she is moved by conscience and love. Through her actions, we arrive at an absolute truth, discovering something fundamental to human experience. She urges us to persist with what we know to be right, and her tender age teaches us to be suspicious of grown-up notions of shades of grey. How a person chooses to live in the real world, becomes that person’s own reality. Antigone is dead at 15, but her life held only pure and good.