Friday, August 28, 2009

So the review the review. It was printed yesterday in the Evening News to my enormous excitement. I've been scouring the net for it to no avail. But it seems that Fiona like an angel has faithfully transcribed it so here, courtesy of her kindness, it is.

Photo of Neil shouting at Jacques captioned, "TALENTED: The cast portrayed their characters beautifully."

Headline: Strong performances in unsettling tale of conflict
**** (four stars from Thom Dibdin!)

Stark in its outlook and sparce in its staging, the Grads production of Owen McCafferty's modern version of the great Greek tragedy of Antigone remains true to the feeling of Sophocles' original.

This is powerful and unsettling stuff. It unfolds with deliberate attention to detail as the body bags pile up on stage and the deaths of all who Antigone holds dear become ever more inevitable.

It is set in the immediate aftermath of the Theban civil war - started by Antigone's two brothers who headed the rival factions. The new king, Creon, is a military man who claims the throne by dint of marriage after the brothers killed each other in the final act of the war.

One brother is to be buried with full honour, the other left in the sun to rot.

In the role of Antigone, Karen Whytock brings a shrill wee girl full of outrage to the stage. Religious law demands that a body be buried before its soul can move forward into the afterlife and she is in full-on revolt at Creon's slight to her royal blood.

Jaques Kerr's Creon is equally determined that his decision is obeyed - whether it is right or not. Kerr's is just one of several beautifully worked performances as he takes Creon into the realms of madness, depicting an ultimately weak ruler, bolstered by the sound of his own voice.

Greek tragedy demands a chorus to give a voice to the common person. Jo Butt takes on the tricky role, an old man who's job is to gather the dead of the war - as he looks in each body bag for his own son.

Butt conveys one with the knowledge and humility to advise kings - and he holds the stage without dominating it.

Around these key roles, director Claire Wood brings strong performances from the supporting cast. Whether they are simply standing around on guard duty, bringing news that Creon will not want to hear or trying to reason with Antigone, there are never any detracting voices. Which, with a very plain but subtly nuanced design, allows the play and McCafferty's excellent treatment of the language to speak out strong.

This might be set in ancient Greece and updated by a Northern Irish playwright, but the power of this production is that it is particular to neither. Rather, it speaks of all the conflicts inflicted by those with intractable views on the people around them.


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