cannot be buried away
Yet another rendition of Antigone, one of the most popular Greek tragedies ever
By Byron Toben
Antigone, first depicted on stage by Sophocles some 2500 years ago, is one of the most popular Greek tragedies ever. Although entombed to die in the play, she has been revived over the centuries, sometimes in the original text, sometimes in clever adaptations, often with leading actors.
I have seen it several times. Once by the innovative Gravy Bath Productions at the church de la Sallette near La Cité, then in a clever McGill Players’ The Three Antigones comparing the original to Jean Anouilh’s adaptation during Nazi occupied Paris and… I forget the third.
Then a double dose in 2014, with a Tuesday Night Cafe Anouilh version and an Ann Carson variation called Antigonick at the Toronto Summerworks.
In this current show, presented by RTS (Raise The Stakes) founder-director Anton Goligov, the fine selected text is that of Brit Don Taylor. As in earlier shows by RTS, Mr Golikov has managed to assemble a large cast of 14, but all with excellent creds.
Alison Louder as Antigone rises to the task… Maxim Paradis is also terrific as the autocratic Creon, who puts state above family.
Of the various classic Greek plays whose texts have survived two subjects are the most recurrent, the Trojan wars, of course, and the spin-offs of Oedipus Rex. Oedipus, who gave his name to one of Freud’s complexes, was doomed to kill his father and marry his mother. This did occur unknowingly and after blinding himself in horror at the realization, then King Oedipus of Thebes exiled himself to Colonus, generating a follow-up play by Sophocles.
His brother in law, Creon became king but was beset by wars from a coalition of seven surrounding cities, inspiring another play, Seven Against Thebes by Aeschylus, which I once saw on a trip to New York at the legendary Cafe La Mama.
Oedipus’ two sons fought on opposite sides in this war and ended up killing each other. Creon honoured the one who fought on his side with full burial, but left the other to rot in the desert. Oedipus’ daughter, Antigone, secretly buries her brother against penalty of death ordered by King Creon, her uncle.
The play gives great opportunity for the cast to exhibit their agonies.
Alison Louder as Antigone rises to the task. Great to see this popular Montreal-born performer, writer, producer and director now residing in Toronto back in town. Maxim Paradis is also terrific as the autocratic Creon, who puts state above family. This French grad of the National Theatre School often performs in English without a hitch.
Albane Sophia Chateau, who has studied and acted in France, balances Antigone as her supportive but less activist sister Ismene. Gabriel Maharjan as Haemon, Creon’s son, affianced to Antigone, is torn between love to her and loyalty to his father. He is a recent Dawson grad. Antonio Bavaro plays blind seer Teiresias, a change from recent divine roles as Jesus and Aphrodite.
Niamh Power, a Montreal actress from Ireland, impressed in a smaller role as a soldier who discovers the forbidden burial but is terrified to tell the King. She has been in several Snowglobe productions. Skyler Clark, another Dawson grad increasingly in demand, is an unnamed Messenger bringing bad news home to Thebes. Eurydice, stoic wife of Creon, is superb in a very small role as portrayed by Isabelle Giroux. More active on the French side, she is a grad of the Los Angeles American Musical and Dramatic Academy. Also proving the adage that there are really no small roles are stand up comic Nazeer Khan as a guard/attendant and Zamera Amy Topolovec, yet another Dawson theatre student, as a boy guiding the blind Teiresias around.
What is a Greek play without a Chorus? While Laurence Olivier once played a one-man Chorus in Antigone, here is a more conventional five. Three come from the Dawson program – Nils Svensson-Carell, Lucas Ditecco and Jeremy Cabrera. Choir leader Christian Daoust arrives via Concordia and Lamda in London, U.K., while Stephen Maclean Rogers is a U of Guelph grad working in administration at the Segal Centre. This is not your stationary Chorus. Great individual and group movement keeps things hopping while not being too intrusive.
Likewise, selected background music by the quartet using upright bass (Lloyd White), oud, guitar (Gideon Yellin), percussion (Alex Lepanto) and harp (Jenny Rizzo) adds to the texture without distract.
The whole event is staged in the intimate atmospheric theatre of Westmount Park United Church.
‘As in earlier shows by RTS, Mr Golikov has managed to assemble a large cast of 14, but all with excellent creds.’
While filled with tragic events, there were still some humorous moments. I was amused that Antigone’s claim ,“I am what I am”, reminded me of Popeye’s mantra, “I yam what I yam”.
McGill classics prof Lynn Kovac advised during the preparation of this show. She has her own weekly Monday reading of selections from Homer’s Iliad at the Pub des Pins, called Happy Hour Homer.
Antigone continues to February 17 at the Westmount Park United Church at 8 pm.
Matinees recently cancelled for technical reasons despite large audience interest.
Information and tickets:
Images: Phil Latour Photography (unless specified)
Read also: JFK, the opera as Greek tragedy
Byron Toben is the immediate past-president of the Montreal Press Club.
I think there is always a reason to do Antigone. Each generation is challenged by the play’s unsentimental admonition to fight even unto death against the state when the state is in the wrong.