OEDIPUS AND ANTIGONE
The audience for this performance of the latest production from the excellent Beyond The Horizon company is surprisingly noisy (though not during the actual performance); the interval feels like a cross between a football crowd and a hen party. Clearly, the company has a lot of supporters. The stated idea behind this stripped-down version of Sophocles’ two plays is to try to give it a modern, or timeless, relevance. Does it succeed? Well, partly. The costumes are modern dress, the stance of the kings, Oedipus and Creon, are redolent of modern dictators on their podium with their presidential lectern, flanked by acolytes. Though the strange inclusion in the set of what seems to be a modern Greek taverna seems to have no relevance, and is never used as a drinking establishment in the show. The performances by the cast are never less than forceful, though there is not much time in this truncated version of the plays for them to develop as characters; mainly they are there to put conflicting points of view, and to illustrate how ancient Greeks regarded morality and their religion and politics. Some things are incredibly powerful, nonetheless. The opening scene of ‘Antigone’, the fight between Etiocles and Polyneices, is just stunning; in darkness, to the deafening sound of modern battle, and is a chilling portrayal of the true violence of war. That said, though the performances of all the cast are never less than powerful, there is a tendency for them to be rather more powerful than they always need to be. Because of the compacted nature of the script, almost every speech is delivered at top volume with agonised despair or violent rage, which has a tendency to make the show feel relentless and just a tad monotonous. Teiresias, for instance, the blind prophet, played graphically here by Adam Lloyd James, is almost as shouty as the rest: sometimes horror can be pointed up more chillingly with the contrast of quiet, measured tones. Matilda Dickinson’s delightfully nervy guard, though, does give some relief from the relentless bleakness.
But, when all’s said and done, this is a tragedy, and Greek tragedy is more gruesome than most; serving as it did as a model for Shakespeare and all the rest. And in our modern day we have no shortage of tyrants and blood-soaked murder and suicide, have we?
John Christopher Wood