Review: Antigone, Derby Theatre

The eternal power of the Greek tragedies to reach out to us with a message thousands of years after they were written is something to marvel.

They have been revived many times through history but seldom does one get the makeover that Roy Williams has just gifted Sophocles’ Antigone.

He has gone the whole hog and completed updated it using the urban street poetry he writes so well.

He hasn’t fallen into the trap of diluting his text with too many links to the historic version and the result is a powerful, moving play. It is 90 minutes of sheer emotion.

With director Marcus Romer at the helm Pilot Theatre’s version of the play being staged at Derby Theatre is sassy, sharp, and starkly sophisticated.

Antigone is about power and identity and how that power can corrupt it is still totally relevant today in the Middle East, the Ukraine even closer to home and certainly in contemporary gang culture.

This adaptation produced along with Derby Theatre and Theatre Royal Stratford East sees the cast in a contemporary version of Old Thebes. As befits the 21st century the camera plays a big role with video clips on mobiles and postings on social media sites all part of the action.

The story is essentially about Antigone, (Tig) the daughter of Oedipus who defied her uncle, Creo The King of Thebes, to cover the dead body of her defeated brother Orrin.

Creo in turn is convinced he must make an example of her and refusing to listen to the pleas from his son Eamon he condemns her to be buried alive in a quarry. His lesson is hard learned when Eamon kills himself and as a result his loses his wife.

He is a broken man who realises he is to blame and that he has lost everything that matters to him.

Mark Monero is a superbly convincing Creo who has perfected the swagger of the gangland King in his dapper suits.

Doreene Blackstock, who plays Eunice, his bling-wearing wife who had dragged herself from the gutter of Old Thebes by marrying The King, is an excellent partner in crime and the pair of them could justly lord it about the stage.

As a relative newcomer to the stage Savannah Gordon-Liburd in the title role gives a spirited performance. An emotional verbal battle between Tig and Eunice shortly after the young girl has been locked in the club cellar is one of the most electrifying scenes.

From among the other characters the standout performance is Oliver Wilson who plays one of the leading gang soldiers and Tyrese the truth-telling seer who is dragged in to advise the King. Of course in this version the wise man lives on the streets with his belongings in a shopping trolley.

The rest of the cast are: Gamba Cole as Eamon, Frieda Thiel as Esme, Luke James as a guard, Sean Sagar and Lloyd Thomas as soldiers.

The designer is Joanna Scotcher, lighting, Alexandra Stafford, sound, Sandy Nuttgens and fight director Liam Evans Ford.

Antigone can be seen at Derby Theatre until October 4.