• Amy Toledano

Antigone presented by Holy What

Image courtesy of Ali Wright

What is it?

A new adaptation of Sophocles’ Antigone written by Lulu Raczka and directed by Ali Pidsley.

What is it all about?

Two young sisters, Antigone and Ismene, are princesses of the city of Thebes. Their two brothers, Polyneices and Eteocles, have gone to war against each other for the kingship of Thebes.

When the lifeless bodies of both of the brothers are returned to the city, their uncle Creon, now the leader of Thebes, declares that Polyneices’ body must be left outside the city walls without a proper burial while Eteocles is celebrated as a hero.

Antigone is conflicted and, in conversation with her sister Ismene, agonises over whether she should bury her brother Polyneices even though she will be executed if she does. 

Lulu Raczka distills the classic story and tells it from the perspective of the two young sisters. Originally written by Sophocles at around 441 BC in Athens, Antigone explores the meaning of loyalty, the influence of divinity and the power of family ties.

How did it make me feel?

This both timeless and modern retelling of Sophocles’ Antigone is intensely moving, true to its origins and provides a rich female-driven narrative. Raczka does a phenomenal job of distilling a complex and historical narrative into 85 minutes, providing the central female characters with the power they undoubtedly deserve. In the absence of the male characters, there is a bold sense of sorority which makes the story far more intimate and emotional.

Annabel Baldwin and Rachel Hosker are a powerful pairing as Antigone and Ismene respectively. They are captivatingly in tune and wonderfully capture the innocence of youth, the power of female relationships and the gravity of growing up. Hosker stands out as a spiralling and tormented Ismene, usually reserved and demure in traditional retellings.

Designer Lizzy Leech provides a minimal and intelligent set design of a single raised pit of soil in which the sisters are initially buried. This acts as a strong boundary from which the young women can choose to escape. The large amount of soil could almost be an unspoken third character, obviously tying into the motif of burial but also providing a “sand pit” in which the sisters can naïvely play.

The pace is erratic, with long stretching fast duologue and starkly slow monologue. This both helps and hinders progression in the performance, at points keeping the audience swept up in the story but also losing attention at some of the slower moments.

Where is it playing?

Antigone is playing at New Diorama Theatre until Saturday 1 February.

Anything else?

This is fundamentally an emotional story of two contrasting sisters. It is moving and powerful, and there is great necessity in the contrasting and conflicted female narrative that frames this excellent production.

Emma x

Antigone is playing at New Diorama Theatre until the 1st February 2020.

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