Antigone. By Sophocles. Adapted by Damien Ryan. Co-directed by Damien Ryan and Terry Karabelas. Sport By Jove Theatre Company. The Playhouse. Canberra Theatre Centre. Until October 29. Bookings. 62752700 or canberratheatrecenttre.com.au.
The drums herald the end of a bloody rebellion. Bryce Halliday's haunting sound design sweeps across the battle-shattered devastation of Thebes. Set designer Melanie Lietz and scenic artist Rosalind Bunting's create a setting more reminiscent of the familiar images of the bombed Syrian city of Aleppo. Sophocles' tragedy Antigone is hurled out of the fourth century BC into the very heart of the fierce conflicts of our time.
Ryan's adaptation remains true to Sophocles' plot about the daughter of Oedipus, Antigone, who is determined to bury her renegade brother Polynices against the decree of her uncle, Creon. Ryan preserves Sophocles' central debate between the nature of justice, the laws of the state and the rights of the individual in an emerging democracy and then takes the argument further. He casts the conflict between Creon (William Zappa) and his niece Antigone (Andrea Demetriades) upon a battleground of ancient and contemporary ideas with a powerful commentary on our time.
The result is a not-to-be-missed production of unrelenting force, confronting, challenging our notions of justice, setting the individual power of love against the might of the law and ultimately questioning the very nature of human existence. Judgment is given authoritative voice by the Chorus, the citizens of Thebes under their leader (Fiona Press). The rational inevitability of destiny lies upon the lips of the wise pronouncements of the blind Seer, Tiresias (Anna Volska) .
Sport By Jove Theatre's production erupts with invention. Ryan and Karabelas direct with masterful originality, thrusting forth images that thrill and reverberate with the fierce will of the mind and the passionate echoes of the heart. Ismene (Louise Mignone) shrouds Antigone with sisterly devotion. The Theban Chorus stomp out their dance of jubilation upon the dusty earth. Haemon (Joseph Del Re) forces Creon's face into the ground as bitter hatred tears father and son apart. Eurydice (Deborah Galanos) curls upon the ground with a mother's heart-torn grief. A father howls at the heavens with his dead son in his arms.
These are the images, enacted as they were during the Grecian wars two and a half thousand years ago. They are the images that we see upon our television screens in Syria, in Iraq, wherever the ravages of war exact their cruel toll and civil war gives way to civil strife and brother fights brother while the innocents suffer.
"War is the Father of the world. Peace is the mother who repairs the world" the Leader of the Chorus tells the audience. Sport By Jove's Antigone is a brilliantly conceived, yet chilling illumination of Sophocles' investigation of the eternal impact of war upon the human condition. Performed by an outstanding cast and directed with vision and imagination, Sport By Jove's Antigone may not offer hope, but it will arouse understanding. Such is the nature of tragedy.