For two nights, an amalgam of young adults shed their roles as St. Andrews students and adopted classical ones in Jean Anouilh’s contemporary adaptation of Sophocles’ Antigone. The play provides a new and fascinating perspective on the original; done well, it has the potential to be exceptionally moving and thought provoking. Director Peter Swallow made an interesting choice to eschew all scenery but for a black-clad woman, Eurydice, Creon’s wife, who sits in the back, continuously knitting with her face shrouded. As opposed to a traditional beginning, the play begins with all of the characters interspersed around the stage, standing or sitting still; the silence is broken by the entrance of a white-clad chorus member, who introduces each of the characters and the role they play. As they are introduced, the characters briefly come to life, giving the audience a snippet of the movement and expression to come; an engaging way to interest the audience in the characters. The casting for the chorus is wonderful: through a calm, deep tenor, Lewis Harding conveys the relationship between the characters – as well as posing profound philosophical questions about tragedy and humanity itself.
After the chorus waxes existential, the play begins with the entrance of Antigone. A thin, wandering soul, unsure of herself and seemingly unattached to reality – Adryon Kozel successfully rises to the challenge of playing the titular character, and adeptly portrays the brazen though confused Antigone. It is interesting to note that only Kozel is not British; the feckless young girl, impulsive and wild, is thus separated from the rest of the cast both by personality and accent.
Ismene, though the younger sister, is more cautious and conforming to societal norms; Mishia Leggett, with her fantastic blonde mane, seemed to internalize the role, her actions and announcements natural and uncontrived. The worry for the consequences of Antigone’s recklessness is written in every line on her face, as is a hint of shame for her own reluctance to properly bury Polynices.
Simon Lamb was the ideal Creon: calculated and composed, Lamb’s sharp movements and clear, harsh tone establish a world-weary but determined King of Thebes. During his dialogue with Antigone at the heart of the play, his theatrical versatility is revealed as he softens and expresses his affection for Antigone, albeit in the same strict manner.
The supporting cast was absolutely lovely. The adorably coarse royal guards – headed by the straightforward and heavily Scottish Jonas – Andrew Illsley – bring life and mirth to the traditionally moribund piece. Even their names, Binns (Chris Cannell) and Snout (Michael Shanks), produced a chuckle, and their interludes on the pedestrian matters of wives and brothels provided a welcome break from the weighty pathos of the royal family. Antigone’s nurse, Nan (Helena Jacques-Morton) was the epitome of the British matron; constantly fretting, with rosy cheeks and a propensity to look heavenward and half-jokingly berate Antigone for her whimsicality.
An intriguing and well-performed take on the classic Antigone, the Barron Theatre crew put forth an enjoyable and lively performance. The directorial decision to beam a spotlight on certain characters during monologues was a tad cliché – as if the audience must be alerted whenever an important speech was to take place. However, the scenes ran together smoothly, and all actors seemed in their element – an altogether moving and engaging play.
Photos courtesy of Neil Christy and Peter Swallow. Images edited and compiled by Nicole Horgan.