In this blistering adaptation from the writer of Barber Shop Chronicles, Inua Ellams, the epic Greek tragedy from Sophocles receives a contemporary retelling.

Credit: Helen Murray

Leslie Travers’ set consists of a huge foam graffiti spelling Antigone, which is used as a fun house style set, creating our youth centre. As the action moves the pieces are literally thrown from the stage, leaving a minimalistic set that at no point feels empty or strange. The elements are considered throughout, water, fire, air (smoke) are all incorporated as we are grounded in the stage and surroundings. The Open-Air Theatre is such perfect venue for a Greek tragedy, it is, after all, how Greek theatre was envisioned over 2000 years ago. An amphitheatre, surrounded by trees, open to the elements, the action drawing us in throughout. Even the most intimate scenes fill the stage. I couldn’t have picked a better venue. 

Adapting a piece written in 441BC is no small feat but Ellams has created a truly compelling piece, keeping the heart of the story and characters whilst bringing it up to date, a tragedy reflecting our times. I love Antigone, the 2000+ year old Greek tragedy that centres around young women and their struggle against men in power. Ellams has said that his adaptation was not written as a response to our times, however, the parallels to our current political climate are palpable. Ellams has embodied the essence of Tiresias, speaking truth to power through Antigone

Credit: Helen Murray

Antigone has a phenomenal cast with Zainab Hasan’s Antigone as the beating heart of this performance. There is a quiet power to her actions, a subtlety that carries the integrity of her character throughout the unfolding action. Tony Jayawardena’s Creon is the embodiment of the tragic patriarch, showing how easily the morals of a leader can be corrupted when warnings are not headed, ultimately leading to the loss of everything they love. Sandy Grierson’s Aleksy is a delightfully hideous and manipulative character that leaves your seething. 

Greek theatre enthusiasts, and those new to the genre, will not be disappointed by the exquisite use of chorus. From newspaper journalists to kids from the youth centre, Carrie-Anne Ingrouille’s choreography is sharp, clean, and compelling. The incorporation of props such as cameras, tablets and footballs create strong visuals, always supporting the narration and movement of the story in a way that feels natural. Each member of the ensemble representing a myriad of ‘real people’ allowing the ‘British public’ to be voiced throughout. It is the epitome of a Greek chorus. 

Nadeem Islam’s Polyneices is utterly enthralling. Highlighting the conflicts of identity, religion and doing what feels right. He is an utterly empathetic character, portrayed with utter integrity. Antigone would not have the impact that it has without him. The incorporation of British Sigh Language during the siblings’ interactions was beautiful to see. Though the performance is not fully accessible throughout (though there are BSL interpreted, captioned and audio described performances) watching all four actors (Hasan, Islam, Lydia Bakelmun as Ismeme and Abe Jarman as Eteocles) sign as they argue and fight, added to the authenticity of their relationship. There was an added layer of intimacy through this scene that made me wish the whole piece incorporated BSL. 

To put it simply, Antigone is a must-see.

Rating: 5 out of 5.
AntigoneRegent’s Open Air TheatreUntil 24th September


{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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