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Gone

Glyn Cannon
New Ambassadors
(2004)

(Anti)Gone was one of the big successes of the Edinburgh Fringe 2004. It won both a Fringe First and a Guardian Fringe Award as Best Play.

It is not too difficult to see why this tragedy was a hit. Gone combines the classic Greek tragedy of the daughter of Oedipus with contemporary politics in a manner that complements both elements.

From the opening when Nigel Hastings' King Creon speaks using both the language and phrasing of Prime Minister Blair, Glyn Cannon and his director Hannah Eidinow ensure that the audience realise that the pair have other fish to fry.

The story may be that of Antigone's battle to bury her dead brother but the war in which he died could be taking place thousands of years later, and far further east.

Antigone, who is dressed only in dirty white underwear, sees everything in black-and-white. The part is played with real feeling by Julia Hickman. Designer Mike Lees, who uses little more than a bare set, a video screen and a white box, also avoids greyness. All of the costumes are in black or white and they are chillingly set off only by the red of blood.

Antigone debates the merits of war and her brothers, one loved and one hated, with her sister, Ismene, her lover Prince Haemon and the King.

Her love for and loyalty to Polynices is all-encompassing and her tragedy is that she will happily give up her life, not for his but merely for his burial and thus his reputation.

With a three-man chorus, modern dress and modern language, Gone manages the tricky balance between modern and classical pretty well. Occasionally, Antigone's drift from poetic language to the obscene vernacular is too swift and there is a dreadful comic mortuary worker but overall, this is a fascinating and ultimately successful experiment.

Who knows, perhaps this team, who can both infuriate and delight critics, will work their way through the classics? There will certainly be fireworks if they do.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher