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Posts Tagged ‘Finbar Lynch’

So David beat Goliath in the battle of the Antigone’s. Pilot Theatre’s UK touring version, currently at Stratford East (https://garethjames.wordpress.com/2015/02/28/antigone-theatre-royal-stratford), proves to have more energy, passion, creativity and contemporary relevance than Ivo van Hove’s big international touring show with the star actress, hot on the heels of the West End transfer of his much more emotionally engaging A View From the Bridge.

There’s nothing bad about it, but there’s nothing particularly illuminating or innovative about it either. I thought it was rather conservative, unnecessarily slow and it didn’t engage me emotionally at all; the acid test for Greek tragedy. Set in front of a giant screen on which projections sometimes appear, the setting is contemporary, all black leather sofas and dark clothing. The actors are miked, which adds a feeling of detachment. It tells the story of Antigone’s defiance of King Creon over the burial of her brother perfectly well, but in a rather pedestrian way that failed to truly engage me.

van Hove has surrounded Juliet Binoche with a fine British & Irish cast including Patrick O’Kane as Antigone’s nemesis King Creon, Kirsty Bushell as Antigone’s more compliant sister Ismene and Finbar Lynch as the blind prophet Teiresias. Though the performances are often passionate, somehow they didn’t seem real enough to move you – you could see the acting! There’s another of van Hove’s atmospheric soundscapes, but even that didn’t heighten the tension as it did with A View.

I’m a bit puzzled why this one didn’t work. I saw van Hove’s Medea in Amsterdam last month and that engaged and moved me a lot more (in Dutch!), but in the Antigone stakes, Pilot Theatre win hands down.

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This isn’t one of Eugene O’Neil’s best plays, chiefly because it’s too melodramatic, though this production at the Lyric Theatre Hammersmith is so good it makes it seem as if it is.

Seventy something Ephraim marries for the third time, to a girl who’s about the same age as Eben, his son by his second wife. Eben and the two sons by Ephraim’s first wife, Simeon and Peter (keep up!), can see their inheritance slipping away. For some reason, Eben buys out his brothers’ share of the farm on which they live (even though it looks like they won’t inherit it) and Simeon and Peter head west to join the gold rush. Eben stays to fight his corner, his dad and his new step-mother – until, that is, he falls for her and fathers her baby. Of course, it all ends in tears – well, wails really.

In the first 30 minutes, as the story is set up, we just see the three brothers. Mikel Murfi and Fergus O’Donnell are simply mesmerizing as hirsute elder brothers Simeon and Peter and its hard for Morgan Watkins to play the ‘softer’ Eben against this; he comes into his own though when Abbie arrives and his lust for her takes over. Finbar Lynch is a commanding Ephraim, at his best in the christening party scene where everything revolves around him (literally at times). Abbie is a complex character – defiant fortune hunter, passionate lover, lost soul – and Denise Gough plays her brilliantly. You’d be struggling to get five performances this good on any stage.

I wasn’t convinced by Ian MacNeil’s design at first. The house front disappears soon after the start, four mobile boxes open up to become rooms in the house, a screen at the back changes colour with the time of day and the stage rear and wings are in clear view. There’s also a platform jutting out half-way into the stalls with steps out to the side for entrances and exits. Somehow, though, it eventually made sense and its movement contributed much to the flow of the play (even though from the front stalls, entrances, exits and speeches from the platform were irritating).

Sean Holmes’ masterly direction, with brilliant music (Ry Cooder?) played live on guitar by Jason Baughan, brings this slice of 19th century New England to life and I was gripped throughout. A contender for the year’s best revival methinks and only 10 more days to catch it.

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