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Strong idea, laboured dynamics

Sean Mathias’s, director of Antigone and co-writer with Myer Taub, sets the tragedy in a militaristic post-modern landscape, where Western, Arabic and African images fuse and dissolve, deferring any definite location. The screen above the stage broadcasts news, war imagery and trance-like dancing crowds.

The idea behind the project is strong. Sophocles’s classic is rearticulated in a context of terrorism, Aids and globalisation. Creon, played by John Kani, becomes a figure of totalitarianism and intransigence who labels Antigone, played by Hanle Barnard, a “terrorist” when she buries her dead brother against his dictates.

The figure of Creon is ambiguous in its allegory, but there seems to be tacit references to United States President Bush and South African President Thabo Mbeki.

Mathias’s conception, however, fails somewhat in its execution, predominantly due to the disparate performances of the cast. While none of them are notably poor, and Kani provides a powerful presence, there seems to be an unease between the cast members regarding relating to the piece.

The dynamics become at times laboured, failing to build to an emotional intensity and lacking subtlety. The imaginative vision and innovation of Antigone needs to be articulated and naturalised through the performances for the work to fully achieve success.

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Matthew Wilhelm-Solomon
Matthew Wilhelm-Solomon is a lecturer in anthropology at the University of the Witwatersrand and a research associate of the Migration and Health Project Southern Africa.

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