In Lulu Raczka’s adaptation of Antigone, Sophocles’ tragedy about duty, pride and stubborn resolve, the relationship between sisters Antigone and Ismene takes the spotlight.
The play occupies a fantastical, liminal space between ancient Thebes and a modern-day city. The sisters wear tulle dresses and t-shirts, and order beers in nightclubs, but the horror of the original seeps through the text. When the dismembered body of their warmongering brother Polynices is left outside the city gates, Antigone must defy her uncle King Creon, and the law, to sneak outside and bury him.
Antigone (Annabel Baldwin) and Ismene (Rachel Hosker), despised by ordinary Thebans, are essentially prisoners in Creon’s house.
They play improvised games of ‘going out’ where they narrate what they might do without ever leaving their room; when they actually venture into the city, Hosker plays Ismene and describes the narrative action, cleverly blurring the line between metaphorical representation and actual interaction.
Most of the action takes place inside a circular pit of earth, designed by Lizzy Leech, which evokes a child’s sandpit and Polynices’ grave. It is an appropriate duality, given that in this production, the two girls are clearly just that – girls, still testing their own limits.
Raczka captures the banality, quick-fire exchanges and nervous energy of youth, but the scenes themselves can feel forced and overly long. Ali Pidsley’s production is ultimately unbalanced by an extended closing monologue that results in the drama of Antigone’s death dissipating weakly. There’s a profound tragedy in here, but it’s lost amidst the colloquialisms and self-aware anachronisms.