Saturday, September 24

Antigone – Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

The Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre concludes its 90th season with playwright Inua Ellams’ fiercely modern adaptation of Sophocles’ Ancient Greek tragedy. This fresh version of Antigone explores family, faith, politics and power in 21st century Britain.

Jointly directed by Max Webster and Jo Tyabji, the titular character (played by Zainab Hasan) is a British Muslim woman whose family faces a tragedy which tears them apart. Living in a politically divided world where her faith and identity are constantly scrutinised, Antigone rises up and decides to take matters into her own hands.

Ellams draws on numerous real-life parallels in his adaptation, from xenophobia, political tensions and questions of religion, the famous heroine re-imagined as a determined young woman who runs a youth centre in London is artfully done. Hasan truly embodies the fearlessness of Sophocles’ original character as she tries to fight against excessive state governance and for her family whilst being relentlessly questioned for her beliefs. Antigone battles between her religion, identity and moral compass, and Hasan plays the emotional turmoil and helplessness this can cause, extremely well.

Tony Jayawardena triumphs as Creon, who serves as the Conservative prime minister with a nod to several British leaders and their tactics. Through Jayawardena’s portrayal, we see how easily power can go to someone’s head and the difficult balance between law and faith. Sandy Grierson expertly plays Aleksy, Creon’s right-hand man and the true puppeteer of the story. Another standout performance came from Nadeem Islam who plays the radicalised Polyneices, his presence on stage was short but powerful and he really made his mark, especially in the second act.

Photo: Helen Murray

Despite centring on heavy themes, there were some funny moments too, the chorus as paparazzi with their flashing cameras and probing questions provided some much-needed comic relief. Each of the cast members was engaging from start to finish and there were no weak links.

Carrie-Anne Ingrouille’s energetic hip-hop-inspired choreography, executed flawlessly by the chorus and Emma Laxton’s edgy sound design, emphasised the gritty realness of the story and was thoroughly enjoyable to watch. Leslie Travers’ set design was bold yet simple, with the name Antigone on the stage in pink graffiti-style letters, moved around by the cast. The props were versatile, a particularly poignant moment was when a coffin was transformed into a political podium, simple yet powerful.

The writing was a clever mix of prose and poetry beautifully threaded in throughout, making certain speeches, especially regarding current issues Britain is facing really hit home.

Modern British politics, religious tensions and family struggles are all put at the forefront of this Ellams’ epic re-telling, making it extremely relevant to today. You should try and catch this gripping version of Antigone while you can.

Antigone is currently showing at the Regents Park Open Air Theatre until 24th September. Tickets can be purchased here: https://openairtheatre.com/production/antigone

Reviewer: Gemma Prince

Reviewed: 9th September 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★

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