Antigone – Barbican. Review by Julia Pascal.

 

This is a modern realisation of Sophokles’ political drama that is as pertinent now as it was in the late 440s BCE.  Ivo van Hove has created a cinematic vision of the play which is always viewed through a wide lens.  Jan Versweyweld’s set is fascinating as a triple level of office, chipboard floor and ever-moving video screen where the quiet movement of the outside world subtly infuses this complex theatre painting.  The stage is dominated by a hot red sun followed by an icy moon and, although the concept is poetic and immediate, the effect of this lighting is to alienate the audience and to deaden the actor’s faces.

Consequently the actors are obliged to find a performance style to create a dynamic presence against this overbearing aesthetic.  Patrick O’Kane manages an easy relaxed delivery which veers from cruelty to irony.  The ensemble is terrific and these actors are really at home with the text and manage to emerge from the overpowering design magnificently.  However Juliette Binoche is disappointing.  She lacks variety and often strains her vocal cords.   She does not have the same vocal ease as the charismatic O’Kane, the melodious range of Kathryn Pogson or the mercurial quality of Kirsty Bushell.  Bushell has authority and weight as Ismene but why has Versweyweld dressed her in high heels and mundane office clothes making her look more like a secretary than the sister of Antigone?

Special mention must be made of Anne Carson’s exceptional translation which is natural and powerful.   Her text allows Sophokles to jump out of classical Greece and on to our modern street.

Julia Pascal © 2015.

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