Thursday, December 8

Antigone: A Russian play essaying Authoritarianism – Cockpit Theatre

Antigone: Sophocles’ Greek tragedy is adapted-rewritten by Evgeniya Palekhova into a compelling two-hander anti-authoritarian debate between the transgressive niece, Antigone and the dictator Creon. The war has ended. Antigone learns that both her brothers are dead. Forced onto opposite sides, they have killed each other in battle. When dictator Creon takes control of the torn and hostile state, he buries one and proclaims the other as a traitor, leaving him to rot in the streets of Thebes. Antigone chooses to bury her brother despite the danger it entails.

The director, Ovlyakuli Khodzhakuli is very sensitive to the use of the material in the play. Each property is either destroyed or broken by the end of the play. The continuous smoke and flashing lights appropriately create a post-war dystopian environment.

Photo: Helen Murray

It is commendable that as the debate becomes larger in the play, the space seems to expand. Initially, the play seems to be a form-driven experience. It opens up like the world of a video game. Creon jumps out of a grave and sets up the stage with the help of an audience member, it is an invitation into the world of Antigone and Creon. Another indelible moment from the play is created by the use of two standing microphones by the two actors. Antigone after several failed attempts to convince Creon takes the microphone and starts singing in denial ignoring the ways of her Uncle. This seems to echo the way young people will deal with authoritarian regimes in the future, ignoring them as long as they don’t interfere with their lives.

Vlada Lemeshevska as Antigone and Oleg Sidorchik as Creon are physically intense in their performances. They move to the intensity of the environment and maintain their energy throughout the performance. Watching a play in another language invites the audience to question the vocabulary of experiencing theatre in the language of theatre. With the passing of time, the surtitles become less important, and it becomes increasingly idiosyncratic to see humanity beneath words and cultural barriers. When characters become metaphors for ideas, one sees the play for what it is!

Presented by Xameleon Theatre, the play is supported by Arts Council England, Goethe Institut, Stone Nest, NDT Broadgate, Migrants in Theatre & Counterpoints Arts. Watching a play in the Russian language is becoming ever so rare in the context of the war in Ukraine.

To come across an adaptation of Antigone in the Russian language is a reminder that art can be the rational bridge of humanity that seems to find meaning even in inhumane circumstances created by the state. Antigone is playing at the Cockpit Theatre and demands an urgent spectatorship.

Reviewer: Akshay Raheja

Reviewed: 2nd November 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★