Cherwell’s verdict: “a tragedy very much in progress”
It’s almost impossible to recommend anyone to see a play which was so much still “under construction” on the day allotted to a preview, not because I’m sure of the play being a failure but because what I saw may well bear no relation to what actually appears on stage. The cast, clearly well-directed by Marchella Ward, have taken what they described as a “bare-bones” script from Royal Court Young Writer Jingan Young, and are in the process of adding scenes which expose character psychology. An innovative idea, certainly, and one which would probably appeal to a modern audience, but at the moment these scenes are unscripted and so change radically from time to time. I was treated to one scene between Ismene (Alice Porter) and Eurydice (Lucy Dawkins) which vacillated between a rather drawn-out and heavily laboured conversation and a passionate, engaging argument. I just hope it’s this second version which ends up on stage.
Another scene which had real potential was between Antigone, one of the more convincing actors, and Haemon, who try to “talk about their relationship” in what feels like a rather twenty-first century way. This is the other talking point of this production of Antigone – it’s certainly been brought into the modern day, with conversations including lines such as “This is a big mess”, and “do you know how crazy you sound?”, which sound suspiciously like the sort of thing candidates on that infamous television show The Apprentice say to each other in the depths of a mid-task crisis.
In a true Greek tragedy style, the cast incorporates a chorus of seven, “doing what a Greek chorus does but in a more sinister way”. These actresses will remain on the stage throughout, so that although they morph into various roles including journalists and commuters, they will always be identifiable as the riot mob who provoke the controversy of the whole play. The small slivers of chorus-in-action that I saw consisted of a run-through of a commuter scene on train; the cast were silent throughout but mimed simultaneous actions (such as newspaper page-turning, and leg-crossing) together. This could have been highly effective, but unfortunately the scene was nowhere near a finished product, and didn’t quite have the intended effect.
Whatever else it may by, this version of Antigone will be in no way alienating to modern audience, paying heavy attention as it does to our innate appreciation of “real” characters and agonised, fragmented conversations. But whether the cast will draw together before sixth week to produce a slick and well –polished production remains to be seen.