Photo credit: Ali Wright. Annabel Baldwin and Rachel Hosker pictured
With her version of the Antigone story, Lulu Raczka has infused this well known tale with youthful vigour. Focusing on the relationship between Antigone and her sister Ismene, she gives a fresh perspective on this well known tragic tale. The focus shifts, so we see the story through the eyes of girls who are too young to go out drinking, and for whom sex is the subject of much fascination. Creon is reduced to a shadowy figure who is deliberately excluded from the stage. His is the rule of law that Antigone defies, but the story lies in why, despite knowing the consequences, Antigone still buries Polynices. This is a girl who is full of life, and could have had an extraordinary future, here Lulu Raczka tries to unpick why Antigone would choose to give up her life for her principles. By giving us Ismene’s perspective on events, we see the personal side of Antigone’s tragic story. The bond between these sisters is vividly brought to life, as is Ismene’s confusion and guilt at surviving her sister.
Annabel Baldwin plays Antigone with an exuberant youthful energy and razor sharp intelligence. She is clearly presented as a smart, loving and politically aware young woman, who is not afraid to challenge the status quo. This is a performance that sparkles with wit and compassion. Baldwin’s performance particularly shines in the post adrenaline moments, when Antigone’s defiance morphs into something more complicated, as the reality of the price she must pay begins to hit.
Rachel Hosker is perfect as Ismene, the younger sister determined to keep up with the brilliant Antigone. While Antigone might define the rules of the game they play, Ismene has a will of her own, and is not afraid to challenge the sister she so admires. Hosker beautifully captures Ismene’s dread as she realises that she can’t talk her sister out of defying Creon’s law. In this telling of the story the focus is very much on Ismene, as she grapples to understand Antigone’s actions. She is the one who feels guilt for not sharing Antigone’s convictions or reaction to the death of Polynices. She is the only one of her siblings to survive, who has to live with the weight of that reality for the rest of her life.
Ali Pidsley’s direction is both imaginative and brave, successfully melding the ancient and the contemporary aspects of the play to create an urgent and moving piece of theatre, that feels relatable and accessible to modern audiences. Set, light and sound design all work powerfully together to amplify the overall impact of the story. It is evident Pidsley and Razcka share a clear vision, as it has been intricately realised in this production.
Holy What Theatre Company’s Antigone runs at the New Diorama until 1st February. I’d highly recommend it to those who’d enjoy an emotionally accessible, personal and fresh take on the Antigone story. If you’re anything like me, you might want to take tissues. No I don’t have a cold or allergies, I was crying and I’m not ashamed to admit it.