Antigone’s (Aenne Schwarz) brothers have both fought on opposite sides in Thebes’ civil war and they both died doing it. As if that wasn’t bad enough, King Creon (Joachim Meyerhoff) has decided that Polyneices, who fought against him, is to be left unburied outside the city gates. Antigone can’t bear the thought that one of her brothers should be thus treated. She tries to convince her sister Ismene (Mavie Hörbiger), but ultimately she goes alone to bury Polyneices, despite Creon’s having expressly forbidden it.
Antigone is a fascinating play and the production I saw was interesting in many ways, but not successful in all aspects.
The two most outstanding features of this production were the stage design and the inclusion of the chorus. The former consisted almost entirely of 80 lamps forming a mobile wall aimed at the audience. Depending on the scene, their brightness was higher or lower, and sometimes they cleverly used them together with fog to create a literal shadowplay. When they tell the story of Creon’s background, that works fantastically, for example. Unfortunately they do tend to overdo it and it wasn’t just once that the lights effectively blind the audience, which is uncomfortable and distracting (and made me sneeze).
The latter is an actual singing chorus that is strategically placed all over the theater, mostly in the audience directly. I liked that they didn’t just leave the chorus out or reduce it to one person (as often happens in modern productions) and placing them with the audience and not jsut on stage is a nice, if not exactly subtle, way of making sure that the audience doesn’t just remain spectator but should become commentator as well. I was less than taken though, with the music. The songs themselves weren’t bad, but I thought that the content of the comments got lost in the gimmick nature of the songs (it starts with Leonard Cohen’s The Future, but the rest, I think, is mostly original music).
And that was my issue in general with the production: the heart of the story, the characters, the moral struggle, was lost in the blinding lights and the pop-up chorus (which is also easy to see with my review). The only one who still gets some kind of point across was Creon. But the eponymous heroine Antigone quickly has to concede her own story to him and the pompous design. (Admittedly, though, the original play, as far as I recall it, doesn’t make that too hard: it’s much more about Creon anyway.)
It’s definitely not a bad production and even with all my criticism of it, it was an interesting experience to see it. But it did not make me as happy as it could have made me if it had put more trust in its characters to actually tell the story.