I was certainly “all Greek” to me last night as I sat down in the quirky Southwark Playhouse to watch this 2500 year old play.
What surprises me most about these ancient Greek plays is how contemporary and relevant their themes are in the 21st Century. Perhaps the greatest tragedy of them is this fact, humankind has learnt little in the last 2500 years it sometimes feels.
Tom Littler was the director for this production and he’d placed it in a modern context, of what is happening in the Arab world at present. As the programme states, “As women today take to the streets in Arab states to protest against their governments, we should appreciate that they also risk death to inspire others. They are waving Antigone’s flag.”
The belligerent leadership depicted superbly by Jamie Glover as Kreon is alas all too common. His sexist remarks and statements should be a thing of 2500 years ago, but this brought into sharp focus how prevalent these views are even today in certain part of the world.
Eleanor Wyld was a feisty Antigone, who bravely follows the path she believes is right despite its consequences. Edward Petherbridge (the programme notes he has a new book out Slim Chances and Unscheduled Appearances – that’ll be worth a read I’m sure) as the wise prophet Tiresias, speaking the truth to Kreon was an especially powerful scene. As the tragedy unfolds around Kreon and we see the results of his lack of judgement, it is a timely warning to us all.
I really wanted to see how they present the concept of The Greek Chorus in a contemporary way, I was very impressed by how they presented this. Through song, dance and chorus they gave their part with clarity and force. It’s a large chorus of 16, but used in an imaginative way I thought.
They perform Timberlake Wertenbaker’s translation, and I’ll leave it to those more qualified than I to comment on whether it is an accurate translation. From my point of view though it carried the story clearly and with pace. I almost didn’t go to this last night as I have a stinking cold at the moment (ahhhhh, I hear my sympathetic readers say), and so I say at the end of a row, ready for a quick getaway if necessary. The 90 minutes flew by and I was engrossed for the whole play, I think that speaks volumes for the translation.
I’ve never seen an ancient Greek play before, so I’m glad I took this opportunity to see this one, it certainly didn’t feel ancient. Far from it, as I said, it’s scarily contemporary. Let’s hope that we learn these lessons soon.