Antigone – Soulpepper

By Trent Scherer

Antigone

By Trent Scherer

I have had the pleasure to read Sophocles’ Theban Trilogy a number of years ago while doing my undergraduate degree so I knew the storyline before heading into Soulpepper’s production of Jean Anouilh’s Antigone at the Young Centre.

Anouilh’s adaptation of the traditional story was written for a period when the French were in their fourth year under Nazi occupation. Anouilh uses Sophocles’ story of a princess wishing to bury the body of her dishonoured brother, despite a decreed that he shall not receive burial, as a parallel the French resistance of the Nazi occupation.

Soulpepper’s production is beautiful bordering on haunting. The Lorenzo Savoini’s set presents the audience with the sense of literally being in this massive, minimalist study. The dark, large-squared paneling on the three walls gives the darkness of the play a place to inhabit as it unfolds and envelops us.

David Storch’s opening monologue lays out the players in this piece of mastery. I managed to see Storch in Soulpepper’s King Lear and he continues to entrap me with his acting. With hard cut, tight lighting created by Savoini, Storch sets the stage emotionally as the Chorus (Greek tradition has this as a group of men, but in this production Storch represents the whole chorus) It is a sweet opening.

The players of this piece move seamlessly through this straight narrative play as though each had never known anything else but these few moments of the play. Such wonderful actors such as Liisa Repo-Martell and R.H. Thomson join Soulpepper’s staples Maggie Huculak and Jeff Lillico, amongst others. I had never had the pleasure of seeing Thomson perform before, but his Creon was spot-on with his understanding of being trapped by royal obligation. Playing opposite to Thomson was Repo-Martell, whose Antigone was heart-felt and brutally deep.

All of this movement and emotion was accompanied by a constant ticking of time. As in Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart, there is a constant ticking of the on stage clock as it counts down Antigone’s impending destiny.

My man, Joe, who is not overly knowledgeable about theatre, also came away having enjoyed the production as well. His only issue was Repo-Martell’s choice of an aspirated vocalization: she’s breathy. I, myself, found it a good choice as it supplemented Antigone’s resignation to her fate as a tragic heroine.

The thing that was basically useless to the production were the nine small security monitors off on stage right. They were not utilized to their full potential. Thankfully, they were not distracting enough to take away from the production. The other thing that I thought was a terrible choice was the song selection for after the curtain call – for some reason they decided to play Loverboy’s Everybody’s Working for the Weekend. Just weird.

The play has no intermission (hit the bathroom before you head in) but the production is so well paced that it moves along skillfully and the hour and three-quarters is over before you think about the time.

Details

Antigone plays at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts (55 Mill St) until October 17th, 2009

-Performances run Tuesday to Saturday at 8pm with Saturday matinees at 2pm.

-Ticket cost ranges from $28-$68.

– Tickets are available at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts or at 416.866.8666.

Production photo of Liisa Repo-Martell and R.H. Thomson provided by Soulpepper.