Review: Antigone, New Diorama

Holy What’s Antigone at the New Diorama shifts the focus of Sophocles’ play onto two young sisters to powerful effect

“Do you think they’ll come back from the war…both of them?”

There’s a pleasing trend toward giving voice to the under-represented through revisiting familiar narratives (cf Six, & Juliet; Teenage Dick) and Holy What’s new production of Antigone makes for a fine addition to that canon. Lulu Raczka’s adaptation of Sophocles’ Greek classic resites the story as an ongoing  interaction between the two sisters Antigone and Ismene and proves all the more compelling for it.

The result is a restless psychological study that forefronts sisterhood, teenage emotion and the impact that trauma has on those left behind. Set in the elegant but eerie space of Lizzie Leech’s metatheatrical design, Tig and Issy play a series of games to try and distract themselves from the fact that their Uncle Creon has locked them in while their brothers Eteocles and Polynices wage civil war against each other. But games only go so far…

Dressed in t-shirts and party dresses, Annabel Baldwin and Rachel Hosker both give greatly ebullient spirit to Antigone and Ismene respectively, trying to remain ensconced in a coccoon of imagined nights out in bar with men who buy them beer. They both know they can’t go outside, detested as the ruling class is by the ordinary Thebans, which only makes Antigone’s crucial decision to tend to the body of the fallen Polynices all the more fatalistic.

Raczka’s text toys interestingly with ideas of representation, Ismene gets to play the role of narrator of outside events as well as interacting fully with Antigone, and there’s a convincing edge of youthful bravado and nervousness to many of their exchanges. And after all the tragedy that must surely come, Ali Pidsley’s production urges us towards a moment of reflective introspection about the lives that have no choice but to carry on.

Running time: 85 minutes (without interval)
Photos: Ali Wright
Antigone is booking at the New Diorama until 1st February

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