Posts Tagged ‘Pilot Theatre’

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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The first of two Antigone’s in 12 days, and less than three years since the last one. Greek tragedy’s were made to last. I don’t know what Ivo van Hove and Juliette Binoche have in store, but this 2500-year-old play really suits playwright Roy Williams’ contemporary gangland setting. Gangs have military precision, familial loyalty, an obsessive aversion to disrespect and a commitment to revenge. With a little bit more tinkering, you could make it feel like a completely contemporary play.

Creo is the boss, the king of gangland Thebes. At the end of the war he instructs his soldiers to bury one of Tig’s brothers with honour and the leave the other unburied.  Tig is the girlfriend of Creo’s son Eamon. She defies him by covering her brother’s body and his revenge is to command that she be buried alive, but in a Romeo & Juliet twist Tig and Eamon take matters into their own hands. Veteran tramp Tyrese brings messages and warnings from god, but it might be too late for Creo.

Designer Joanna Scotcher has created an urban space under the highway with unfinished concrete pillars and wire gates and Sandy Nuttgens adds a brooding soundscape. Mark Monero has great presence and charisma as Creo (hard to believe he’s now old enough to play the father of an adult, but he is!) and Doreene Blackstock is great as his determined and ultimately defiant wife Eunice. Savannah Gordon-Liburd and Gamba Cole are both excellent as the star-crossed lovers. I didn’t realise Oliver Wilson, playing a soldier, was also Tyrese until I read the programme – a master of disguise indeed!

This is an excellent updating of an age old tale by one of our best playwrights which Stratford’s loyal local audience lapped up, as I did. Comparisons to follow in 12 days time…..

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