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Sophocles, adap Hollie McNish

A Storyhouse Originals/ Triple C production

Storyhouse Chester

October 13-23, 2021; 2hrs, no interval

APOLOGIES: a technical error earlier today inadvertently removed this review from our site.

Fatima Niemogha as Antigone in the Sophocles' tragedy at Storyhouse Chester
Fatima Niemogha as Antigone in the Sophocles' tragedy at Storyhouse Chester

This is an ambitious project from Storyhouse; a well-acted play that both contemporises Sophocles’ Greek tragedy and at the same time takes us back to Ancient Greece.

The adaptation is thoroughly modern in its use of language and song, making what might have been a difficult drama for modern audiences easier to understand. Doubly so, in fact, because a main feature of the production is its accessible format: there are pre-show touch-tours for the visually impaired, every performance is fully BSL integrated and relaxed, the central performer is deaf and oral, and creative-captioning and audio description are also available. making this as accessible as it gets.

The play opens with an invitation back to the world of Sophocles and the Festival of Dionysius, a celebration of fertility, pleasure and thanksgiving to the gods. There is a brief synopsis - acknowledging that Greek theatre is a closed book to many - before we are whisked into the tragedy of Antigone (Fatima Niemogha) , as she grieves for her brothers and agonises with her sister, Ismene (Raffie Julienne). A brother is scorned as a traitor and left for the crows to eat – but their grieving is a capital offence and the city is called upon to denounce those who dare to cry.

Is this relevant to our world? Well yes; the work raises many modern questions: how important is justice compared to political order and family loyalty? When do we struggle to right wrongs and when do we accept them? Does law come from the gods or the king? What ritual offers a fitting death?

This play is undoubtedly political. Antigone’s’ language reflects the non-violent protests of the modern age; King Creon (Ken Christiansen) trots out the same platitudes of countless modern politicians; there are even beats about the role and status of women and a cry for equality.

The most moving part of Natasha Rickman’s production is the dialogue between Antigone and Ismene, even though much of it is conducted in silence and signed – a dramatic contrast, charged with deep emotion, compared to the joyful clamour of the introduction.

At times the creative captioning can prove distracting, but it is good to see the BSL signers, Rachel Merry and Amy Helena integrated into the piece rather than as passive bystanders.

Writer Hollie McNish says tragic theatre was seen as a godly pleasure, alongside kissing and feasting, a magic cup constantly refilling with wine. I have to agree: despite the sombre nature of the story it remains compelling, vital, enjoyable drama, and Sophocles’s original ending is both profound and fitting: “Wisdom will finally rise”.

More information here and check out this video


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