Wednesday, 25 February 2015

THEATRE REVIEW - ‘Antigone’

Creo and his son Eamon argue
Actors Mark Monero and Gamba Cole
Antigone is a tragedy by Sophocles first written sometime BCE. Compared to her beautiful and docile sister, Antigone is portrayed as a heroine who is committed to her family. Stubborn and fearless, she makes a firm decision to take a certain matter into her own hands despite knowing the consequences she will face. Press Night for Antigone at Theatre Royal; Stratford East was a buzz of excitement for what it was hoped would be a spectacular production. Did it live up to the expectation, or was it a messMore shade than light, this version by award-winning Playwright Roy Williams was more of a miss than a hit!

THE UGLY
Over saturated with scenes that were always one or two monologues too long, the set stayed the same for the entire duration except for a few of the same props wheeled on and off by the actors and so, visually you're left unfulfilled. For some reason there are ill-timed, ill placed and the unnecessary use of the odd slip into Caribbean tongue that simply grated on my ears! Whenever there was laughter in response to the use of this accent I couldn't tell if it were uncomfortable laughs, or the laugh one does when utterly confused! It seemed to be the latter...  

The young lovers, Eamon and Antigone
played by Gamba Cole and Savannah Gordon-Liburd 
It would also seem that the director may have thought certain aspects of the play might not make sense, even to those familiar with the story because, most scenes, which could've easily been those cut from EastEnders Live (Who Killed Lucy?), were practically spoon fed to the audience! Take for example a scene where the two young lovers quite slowly and carefully, in sync, kneel facing one another then lay down to look at each other only to then roll over and both lay on their tummy in the direction of the audience and then proceed to discuss the 'fact' that they just had sex... Wait, what? Was that little movement supposed to have been a choreographed representation of a night of passion?


The sisters, Esme and Antigone -
Actress Frieda Thiel and Savannah Gordon-Liburd
THE BAD
I lost count of how many times certain actors gave their back, or side profile, to the audience resulting in us not being able to see any facial expressions... This was just shocking to me! "Are they wearing their own clothes? Or, are those actual costumes?" said one student to another who were both sat in the row behind. Apart from the Soldiers and one other character, what the actors wore appeared to be a case of 'whatever you can find at home' and, together with the set design, this made the production look more budget theatre than critically acclaimed! Speaking of the actual set design itself I did like it, until it came to life (with projected images that actually spoiled some otherwise decent scenes), I just felt more could have been done with it overall. There were so many contradictions with the set too, for example - one minute two Soldiers were needed to open double gates to where a body was being kept, the next Antigone is able to open the very same gates with her bare hands without it having been suggested (prior) that she possesses some sort of hidden hulk-like strength... Hmm..? With more young people in the audience than adults, or press for that matter, there was quite a lot of mumbled conversations happening which had me itching for an interval that never arrived. Choopse! That's right, folks... There is no break in between the long, tiresome, tense Antigone complete with verbatim line deliveries from most of the cast!!! 
Roy Williams OBE, Playwright

Gamba Cole, who was so good in the dreadful Kingston 14 also by Roy Williams, appeared to have been directed to the point of overacting and I just did not believe him as Eamon. Mark Monero is an undeniable talent however, in his role as Creo, he almost never stopped rubbing the tips of his fingers with his thumb (each hand to its own) which was such a big distraction! I've no idea if it was to be seen as a character trait, or a habit belonging to the actor himself! I've always enjoyed the wonderfully talented Monero however, not this time although he is one of three strongest cast members performance wise.

THE POSITIVES
Although her voice (perhaps adopted for her role) is somewhat jarring, Savannah Gordon-Liburd as Antigone is a visual delight. She has a rich, healthy complexion, a lovely figure and a face very pleasing on the eyes. Frieda Thiel as Esme showed real, genuine emotions. Frieda is a special talent and the main reason I wanted to see the play. There is something so more-ish about her and, for me, she always nails her performances. Sean Sagar in the role of Sentry was such a treat each and every time he graced the stage! I had not seen this actor before however, I hope to see him on stage, or on screen, in the near future. He gave such an authentic, natural and believable performance and was a joy to watch. Oliver Wilson who took on a Soldier role and that of Tyrese had some lovely moments and was fluid in many of his scenes. He is another actor I had not seen before whom I'd like to see again. The comedy elements in this play, albeit often misplaced, were fab. It's always good to get an audience laughing.

THE CONCLUSION
I so badly wanted to enjoy Antigone because, I really like the story which is so very inspiring however, while the story itself will always be a great one told through various adaptations over many, many years to come, Roy Williams so-called "contemporary version speaking urban street poetry" was a complete let down more so by the 'street' language used which saw too much of the dialogue between Creo and his soldiers drenched by an over-use of the word "fam" (not sure why) and therefore most lines sounded like diarrhea instead of poetry! It's such a shame but, it just wasn't very good and such was confirmed by the loud snoring of one male audience member who fell asleep sat in the same row as Broadcaster and Journalist Brenda Emmanus who looked on in disbelief! Antigone was less modern day effects of social media (as mentioned in the Director's Introduction of the published script in book format) and more, is this really theatre and am I actually sat here watching it?

Quote from anonymous audience member
"Essentially a great tragedy but, let down by awkward staging and humour in the wrong places"

RECOMMENDATION
Not since Funny Black Women on the Edge in 1995 (when I was all of 15) have I seen an all round production staged at Theatre Royal; Stratford East brimming with pure genius and excellence from cast and crew! That said, different theatre strokes for different theatre loving folks, right? Go and see Antigone for yourself. While I didn't enjoy the overall production, the story is powerful and riveting and there are many good messages shared. Everyone will have a different take on it!


You can watch the trailer for Antigone here:

Photo Credits: Robert Day, not including the final image.

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