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Review: Antigone, Northern Stage until Saturday

James Harrison offers his verdict on a Greek tragedy's transition to the 21st century at Northern Stage

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Robert Day Antigone is at Northern Stage until Saturday
Antigone is at Northern Stage until Saturday

Greek tragedies are not known for their action sequences.

So when Roy Williams’ production of Sophocles’ Antigone opens with a gangland-style execution it is clear that this is going to be a very modern retelling of an ancient tale.

Williams has shifted the focus of the play from ancient Greek royalty to inner city gangs, and the transition seems to be a smooth one.

Creon - here renamed Creo - is a gang leader who struts on stage to fill the power vacuum left by a recent gang war, and orders that the body of his traitorous nephew Orrin be left out in the street.

Rather than a ruthless kingpin though, Creo comes off looking more like a pantomime villain when he commands “the only thing I want messing with that body is a dawg”.

And it doesn’t help that Creo, played by Mark Monero, initially conjures a persona which is more Ali G than Al Capone.

He quickly gets into his stride however, as the brooding monarch who eventually sees his dynasty torn apart by his own hubris.

Equally compelling to watch is Creo’s wife Eunice, played by Doreen Blackstock, who seemed to bring the stage alive as the streetwise matriarch out to protect her son from Tig’s “filthy incestuous blood”.

It was a shame the two did not get more stage time together as the other couple in the play, Antigone and Creo’s son Eamon, simply weren’t as compelling.

Forbidden relationships are nothing new to audiences and the Creo-Eunice dynamic seemed to offer so much more.

Ultimately though this is a play which has much to celebrate, even if it does just fall short of the full package.

The characters and plot are well developed, despite a slow start, but unfortunately it teases just a little too much at what might have been.

 

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