Sophocles translated by Ian Johnston
Little Homma Productions
Jack Studio Theatre

Eveline Reynolds-Boison as Tiresias Credit: Little Homma Productions
Eleanor Homer as Antigone with Nadia Dawber Credit: Little Homma Productions
Antigone Credit: Little Homma Productions

Little Homma Productions has taken Ian Johnson’s translation of Sophocles’ play from 441 BCE and found a place for it in our times.

The titular Antigone is a contemporary heroine, a woman who has to survive in a landscape of inequality and entrenched misogyny but knows her own mind, her conscience guiding her to rebel against established authority.

A daughter in arguably the most dysfunctional family known to man, her brothers Eteocles and Polynices have died on opposing sides of the same battle over the throne vacated by their father, Oedipus, a character much mocked and misunderstood thanks to turn-of-the-century psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud.

Oedipus’ brother-in-law, Creon, is now King of Thebes and has decreed that Eteocles shall have a funeral with full honours as befits a defender of the nation, whilst the treacherous Polynices shall be denied the funeral rites that pay homage to both the dead and the gods required under divine law, and furthermore his body is to be left to be devoured by animals.

For the noble and headstrong Antigone, there is no choice between the law of man and that of the gods, and in an act of civil disobedience directly defying Creon’s authority, she buries Polynices knowing that retribution that awaits her.

Creon cruelly condemns her to be buried alive, a poorly regarded and disproportionate punishment.

He is unable to read the room, and in his hubris, he confuses intransigence with strong leadership and clings to his unpopular choice for justice despite the people’s support for Antigone. It is only the prophet Tiresias’ authoritative warnings of the gods’ reprisals against him that force Creon to reveal his true colours, and in a pattern familiar to modern audiences, he scrabbles to make good his previous misjudgements and fails catastrophically.

A large cast lend heft to this epic story played out against a stonking contemporary rock soundscape. The text would have benefited from a little more clarity between the doubled-up minor roles, soldiers and Chorus; meanwhile, it is Eleanor Homer’s strongly delivered Antigone who presents with feisty dignity, whilst Mark Homer’s Creon falls from autocrat to “disgraceful fool”.

His ruin would be satisfying were it not for the body count amongst his own innocent family that accompanies its realisation. At this point in Little Homma’s production, the story has a coda that attempts to retrofit a thread of male violence against women into the narrative.

Fair play to them for the attempt, but the preceding text has not done enough to establish a strongly gender-based intent to the action for the concept to succeed. The more enduring theme is the fallibility of people in positions of power and what they will do to hold on to it, something we forget at our peril.

Reviewer: Sandra Giorgetti

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