Antigone, originally performed to the masses in 441 BC, has found a timeless place in the genre of theatre, in various languages, interpretations, and styles. Antigone, Interrupted staged by Scottish Dance Theatre at the Traverse Theatre is a one-woman spectacle that recontextualizes the classic play, exploring its original themes, as well as new ones centring around the relationship between performer and audience.
I entered Traverse 1 expecting the performance space to be set up in it’s usual manner- audience facing the stage straight on in tiered seating. However, instead I was greeted by two rows of chairs placed in the round on the stage, with two arches on either side. Solène Weinachter, the solitary performer, wanders around in her simple costume, barefooted, hair braided back, greeting various friends and audience members in attendance. At one point she addresses the staff, asking if everyone is in yet. And then she slips immediately into the performance.
The show is an hour-long patchwork of scenes from the play, interspersed with movement sequences, music breaks, and visits to one of the arches to use the vocoder. Occasionally, the lights will become more naturalistic, and she will sit in an empty chair and talk about her experiences with Antigone, and how the play has affected her whole life.
This show is less a performance of Antigone, and more an experimental memoir brought to stage. It is comedic where you wouldn’t expect it to be, but still holds all the original weight of the piece. Weinachter does not have an easy job, the language is difficult to begin with, but her heavy French accent wraps around the words, mimicking her body and its movement across the stage. When acting scenes from the play, her physicality and voice changes in such subtle but effective ways; her Ismene is fluid and deep, her Antigone high-strung and desperate, her Creon smarmy and Trump-like. The chorus is created by a vocoder effect and microphone, needling and echoed. Her movements – twisting, turning, balancing – work to make her seem almost grotesque. She moves in rapid circles, backwards, after Antigone has been sentenced to death. The only clue that we as an audience have that she is putting in any effort at all is the rise and fall of her chest as she lies supine.
The show is also, to use Weinachter’s words, an ‘interactive tragedy’. We are not left to our own devices as audience members. We take a few collective breaths, we clap when she asks; towards the end of the piece, she stands and turns in a circle, commenting on some of the features of those in the front row. But, she maintains, she ‘cannot see our prejudices, or our thoughts, or even our courage; but I can see your bodies.’ The show isn’t afraid to ask questions – some spring to my own mind. After the chorus visits Antigone and maintain their support for her through a clown-like version of ‘Sister Suffragette’ from Mary Poppins, I wonder if Antigone is really a feminist story. Joan Clevillé, the director of the piece, notes in his prelude to the piece, that he was inspired by the events surrounding the Catalan independence referendum. Weinachter asks us, once the story is finished, the play over- what happens to those fighting against their states, whose stories will never be told?
The piece, while simultaneously thrilling and exciting the audience, begs the question of its role in theatre, and in particular political theatre. What Weinachter and Clevillé have created is not only a physical feat, but an honest reworking of a Greek classic that brings in into this modern age, in a relatable and affirming way.
PHOTOS: Maria Falconer
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- Antigone, Interrupted – Traverse Theatre - 23rd February 2020
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