The play is centred around a conflict of justice. Antigone’s (Sophia Brackenridge) brothers were killed in battle. One of them has been given a hero’s funeral; the other left to rot. Creon (Sam Davies), ruler of the state, forbids Antigone to perform funeral rites on the neglected brother’s body but single-minded and alone, she pursues her quest for justice.
Directors Jenny Paraskevaidou and Wendy Burr, in keeping with the season's theme, go for a classical approach in their design: draped white and grey sheets and muted costumes, apart from Antigone and bare-chested tattooed warrior Creon. The acting mixes the classically intense approach of Greek tragedy with light comedy. The light comedy belongs to the Chorus (Tiago Luzio, Niall Machin, and Laurence Hussain, complete with jug of wine) who represent the common people and make a loveable trio. Comedy also comes from the two guards (Tom Buchanan and Stephen Amspoker), a welcome relief from a pretty intense tale.
When the classically intense approach of the main characters works, it works well, with clear diction and intensity. However some of the actors need to work on their volume control. If you’re going to shout with all your anger, it still
needs to be under control otherwise the emotion behind it is lost. Davies does best with vocals, able to communicate intensity through a low pitch that seems permanently balanced on the point of explosion.
Brackenridge as the heroine is suitably single-minded with a deep voice that wallows in the tragedy of her neglected brother, though she could afford to let her guard down a little more at the point in which she realises the futility of her
quest. Katy Atkinson as Ismene, Antigone’s timid but devoted sister, does very well with a role that is not as dramatic as Antigone’s. She portrays Ismene’s conflict between her duty to the state and her devotion to her sister very sympathetically and touchingly. Davies is threatening but able to let down his guard at the necessary moments. And Heatha Akosua is very eerie as a female Tiresias, who prophesises Creon’s doom.
I prefer Jean Anouilh’s version of Antigone, written during Nazi occupation of France, because I think there’s a strong political charge in the play and Greek tragedy, full of exposition, is pretty hard to pull off in its pure form. However, it’s nice to look back to the origins of theatre and the play packs an emotional punch in any version. Paraskevaidou and Burr wisely keep it taut, with a short running time (I didn’t check the time, but it was roughly between an hour and an hour and a half), allowing it to have the desired impact.