Rebecca Leighton-Cox

REVIEW: Antigone @ Northern Stage – A triumph of a Greek tragedy

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Roy Williams’ adaption of Sophocles’ Antigone opened its curtains at the Northern Stage in Newcastle with a modern, comedic twist.

The modern re-telling of the Ancient Greek play shifted its focus from Greek Royalty to inner city gangs. The play starts with Creon (Renamed Creo by Williams), swaggering on stage after the recent gang war, which left his traitorous nephew, Orion, dead on the streets.

Played by Mark Monero, Creo portrayed the cold blooded gang king well, although on occasion coming across too comically in the wrong places, but transited well as the plot developed.

The religious themes were still intact, albeit with CCTV replacing the the all-seeing Gods, a clever alteration on Williams part. The grainy videos gave the play a gritty and urban feel – making the play more appropriate to the audience. The modernised adaptation worked well.

Savannah Gordon-Liburd’s headstrong Tig was enthralling to watch, and the actress’ urban character was developed well given the boundaries of the source material. The “I don’t care” and high temper persona was portrayed convincingly.

The compelling to watch Doreen Blackstock played Eunice, Creo’s wife. Eunice hit the stage with her sassy and strong character warning her son, Eamon, of Tig’s “filthy incestuous blood”. Her performance was a hit with the audience, sniggers were heard throughout the theatre at the bold character.

Williams added a feminist twist to the production, with the female characters being head strong and independent, unlike the stereotypical weak women often featured in Greek plays.

The story seemed to progress very quickly, the plot seeming to snowball suddenly with aggression, betrayal and forbidden relationships. Ultimately, Roy Williams’ adaptation of Antigone is 95 minutes of relentless high drama set against a gritty backdrop, moody lighting and contemporary house music. Amongst the enticing storyline – it’s easy to forget there is no colour in the production. The play is kept gritty until the very end – the actors clothing is black against a dark black and grey backdrop, only at the end when a rose is featured do the audience see a glimpse of colour.

The film is deliberately, and very effectively, monochromatically stylised. But, without wanting to give away a key plot point, the closing stages feature a profound use of colour as a single red rose is placed on the stage. It sounds like a small touch, but in the context of the scene it’s an incredibly striking piece of visual drama, and Williams deserves credit for the subtle touch.

All in all, the adaption worked well, although the heavy nature of the story means that it does occasionally come across flat. Despite this, with the work of talented cast members and beautiful imagery, I was walking away with something to rave about.