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Antigone review at Hope Theatre, London – ‘lively and bold’

Antigone at the Hope Theatre, London Antigone at the Hope Theatre, London. Photo: Laura Harling
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Although it comes on the coat tails of one of the most exciting years for Greek theatre since 468BC when Sophocles beat Aeschylus to first prize at the City Dionysia, the plucky Hope Theatre’s take on Antigone – directed by its artistic director Matthew Parker – is a lively latecomer.

Adapted with clarity by Brendan Murray, and set in some kind of non-specific steampunk dystopia – tin foil on the walls, leather clad characters – this all-female production distils the story into just an hour, and adds a few bold additions to proceedings. There are wild and wailing choral interludes by Maria Haïk Escudero performed in close, though sometimes tuneless, harmony by the five performers.

There’s also a framing narrative which sees the five women first telling and then acting out this story of Antigone from atop wooden palettes and amid corrugated iron sheets, offering a stark clash of ancient and futuristic.

But the performances tend to hit just one note and, like the singing, it’s not quite the right one. Hysteria wins out over any kind of range or expressiveness – the notable exception being Hester Kent’s cheery, Cockney messenger and her performance as Tiresias, who is made out to be a dark and mysterious wizard.

In a play very much about the nature of mankind, and the stubbornness of men, these words in the mouths of women offer a new perspective on ancient lines. Tom Kitney’s lighting particularly brings this sci-fi world to life, even if a couple of slightly overblown performances let it down.

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Lively and futuristic all-female take on an ancient classic.