17 – 30 Aug (not 25)
2100-2215, C Soco
The mood is sombre as we enter the House Above. Glasses are raised; speeches are made: we are here to mourn and to remember Antigone.
This is Belt Up’s adaptation of Sophocles’ tragedy: a tale of betrayal, love, honour and disobedience. Transporting the setting to some unnamed country in the early 20th century, the characters reminisce about the nature of Antigone: her character, and her dreadful passing.
The young cast are excellent. The actor playing King Creon stands out amongst them: a commanding character wrestling with powerful inner demons and conflicting motivations to serve his country and preserve his disintegrating family. His part uncovers the complexity of the man – he is leagues away from a one-dimensional villain which the role could so easily have slipped into.
The two female leads playing Antigone and her sister Ismene are also strong: the former hellbent on honouring her dead brother even if it means suffering the wrath of the king. As she resigns herself to her fate, the actress portraying her shows vulnerability and resolve, whilst her sister struggles with conflicting emotions – again, portrayed with moving grace and subtlety.
Only one aspect of this production doesn’t work. Although it echoes the classical tradition of the chorus, at some points during the course of the piece the cast break into song. Some of these work better than others, and the delivery is clear and concise, but they often end up breaking the action and pathos being played out rather than heightening it.
When it works, Antigone is powerful and heart-rending. Some excellently raw physicality bursts into life, when the two actors portraying the dead warring brothers Eteocles and Polyneices explode into the centre of the space, apparently connecting with real and hard-hitting force as they fight.
Pacing is slow at times, but this is obviously intentional, a directorial choice made to intensify the emotional draw of the piece. The ending is also beautifully done, with the terrible beauty of the tragedy tangible and painful.
Without the musical interludes, this would have been another masterpiece from Belt Up. As it stands, it has a slightly anachronistic air that takes the edge off its power.
Ticket information is available from the Fringe website.
Review by Keith D