THIS PRODUCTION HAS NOW CLOSED:
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Play by Sophocles in a new version by Declan Donnellan. Directed by Declan Donnellan.
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War has destroyed Antigone's world. Her brothers lie dead on the battlefield. Creon, her Uncle, has seized the throne. Alone she must stand against his tyranny... Risking her life, she buries her traitorous brother. The stakes rise as she stands by her actions, propelling herself and all around her towards destruction.
On the cusp of the millennium Declan Donellan directs his own version of this seminal tragedy. Fusing ancient skills and modern techniques music, rhythm and chanting are blended together in this vibrant new production. Antigone's struggle for freedom transcends time and remains as potent now as it did over 2,000 years ago.
The cast: Tara Fitzgerald, Jonathan Hyde, Anna Calder-Marshall and Zubin Varla with Kate Bowes, Scott Frazer, Marshall Griffin and Will Welch. Chorus: Christian Bradley, Finn Caldwell, Ryan Ellsworth, Damian Kearney, Owen McDonnell, Drew Mulligan, Donald Pirie, Richard Stacey and Antony Taylor.
NOTE: The seating configuration of the Old Vic Theatre has been changed for this production - the stage will be in the middle of the stalls - see seating plan below.
This production is being presented by Warehouse Productions, the sister company to London's Donmar Warehouse, previous productions by Warehouse Productions in London's West End include the double bill The Real Inspector Hound and Black Comedy and Suddenly Last Summer
[10 November] Antigone posted early closing notices for 18 December 1999 - four weeks earlier than it was originally scheduled to close.
THE OLD VIC Theatre Previewed 1 October, Opened 11 October 1999, Closed 18 December 1999
Extracts from the reviews:
"...At the Old Vic, a special wooden thrust-stage has been built so that the audience surrounds the action. On this central arena, the tragedy unfolds with a keen purity of focus... The eloquent translation is by the director. Ms Fitzgerald's Antigone modulates into a deeply affecting figure as her wished-for yet terrible punishment draws near. The skilfully deployed Chorus of Elders, with their spats and long sticks and swelling dissonant chants, turns away as she approaches each of them individually, and its the sheer loneliness rather than the splendid isolation of her stand that hits when she utters lines like: "I am death's wife and his feet are cold in bed." Before that, though, she makes you understand just why this kind of woman would be the worst possible nightmare for Creon, who is new to his job and understandably desperate to prevent anarchy and civil war from returning. Jonathan Hyde shows each stage of Creon's decline with appalling clarity. He lets you see that contact with Antigone brings all his weaknesses, catastrophically, to the surface. An affront to his sense of manhood, she intensifies his native obstinacy... After the critical thrashing he unfairly received for his inventive production of Hay Fever, it's good to see
Declan Donnellan bouncing back in such masterly fashion." The Independent
"...The first thing that Donnellan has realised is that the play's central figure is Creon. Blinded by a rigid belief in law, Creon defies both the divine gods and earthly love. Every decision he makes recoils upon him, so that by the end he is left not only publicly discredited but bewailing the deaths of his son Haemon, who was Antigone's betrothed, and his own wife Eurydice... Poker-backed and haughty-profiled, Hyde brilliantly embodies the myopia of narrow statecraft, and its repugnant chauvinism, as he says of the discarded Antigone, "My son can
plough another field." But it is hard to withhold one's pity when, at the end, Hyde's body crumples and he emits staccato, stabbing cries of pain musically reinforced by the Chorus. Acquiring understanding at a terrible price, Creon achieves tragic status. But this in no way diminishes the other lead actors, who all play multiple roles. Tara Fitzgerald first appears as a bespectacled Antigone who is less political rebel than a figure possessed by death. But she also returns, to stunning effect, as the crop-haired Messenger, who announces the
devastation wrought by Creon. Anna Calder-Marshall plays the triple roles of the sisterly Ismene, the urgently prophetic Teiresias and the stately Eurydice who, in a brilliant touch, quits the stage even before she has heard the full details of her son's death. And, for those who think Greek tragedy is all entombed reverence, Zubin Varla gets a lot of laughs as a quaking guard fearful of a "cockup" before reappearing as the defiant Haemon. Above all, it is the clarity of this production that astonishes. Every line of Donnellan's version rings out loud and
clear. Greek drama is all too often swathed in piety; here it comes across both as stinging dialectic and as a tragic study in the denial of nature. I emerged both shaken and stirred." The Guardian
"...A vast wooden platform has been built out over the stage and into the stalls, with the audience watching from steeply raked seats at the back of the stage as well as from the usual auditorium. It's like a great gash in the middle of this beautifully ornate theatre, but perhaps that is appropriate for a play about the brutal disruption of war. The production's greatest weakness is Tara Fitzgerald, whose lack of stage
experience is fatally exposed in the title role. Apart from a few muffled sobs at the start, she gives little impression of a desperate, determined woman who has seen almost all her family wiped out by cruel fate... The flatness of Fitzgerald is cruelly emphasised by the resonant richness of Jonathan Hyde's performance as Creon, the production's one triumph. He has a superb authority, moving from pragmatic statesmanship through tyranny to terrible howls of grief as tragedy overwhelms him at the end. Here, for the first time, one experiences the raw intensity of Greek tragedy at its most potent. Donnellan has recruited his chorus from this year's drama-school graduates and they have been brilliantly drilled. Dressed in black suits, Fair Isle sweaters and gaiters, they look like recently demobbed soldiers from the First World War, pale and hollow-eyed with the horrors that they have witnessed. They carry long staves, move with precision, and sing Paddy Cunneen's haunting plainchant score beautifully. The only problem is that with so much movement and music, it is often hard to concentrate on the meaning of the words. There is one further serious miscalculation. As in Sophocles's day, the main actors are required to play a number of
roles. In ancient Greece, though, they wore masks. Here they don't, so you get the absurd situation of Fitzgerald coming back on as a messenger to announce the death of Antigone, whom she has just been playing. All too recognisable in her blank inexpressiveness, it's yet another example of this production's knack of taking careful aim and missing by a mile." The Telegraph
"Here's a mighty cause for depression. Here's a sign of decline and fall, as the Old Vic struggles to begin again under new management. It makes me fear for our theatrical future. The bad news comes in the blundering shape of Declan Donnellan's underdone, undercast and understated version of Antigone... Donnellan, freely basing his own version of Antigone on a literal translation and directing the production himself, imposes airs of arty contrivance. Often the most inspirational of directors, he here converts the elemental tragedy of the Royal House of Thebes into an irritating domestic tiff... Unhelpfully, Donnellan chooses a traverse staging, with a small portion of the audience seated rear stage, the playing area extended into the stalls. This gives a stronger sense of distance and detachment to a play needing intimacy. Minimalist designer Nick Ormerod opts for an open and bare stage. This unatmospheric space, hard to see in full from the dress circle, with its gorgeous wooden flooring, is reminiscent of a 1999 Clerkenwell loft space, not of an ancient anywhere. Donnellan otherwise oddly mixes ancient and modern. The governing tone is misguidedly mild and listless. Actors irritatingly break sentences into jerky sing-song. Anachronisms - "be my guest" "number one" - intrude with all the unwelcome inappropriateness of an indecent exposer at an art gallery... The
classic Greek habit of doubling roles irritates... Only Zubin Varla as Creon's doomed son, conveys the real stuff of tragedy." The London Evening Standard