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'Antigone' - KCL Classics Department

The King’s College London Department of Classics presents their 66th Annual Greek Play: Sophocles’ Antigone. No less challenging than any of its predecessors, Antigone is one of the most popular Grecian tragedies; the final part of Sophocles’ epic Theban trilogy. In her director’s note, Helena Ramsay shows her desire to maintain a fundamental ‘Greekness’ and her initial resistance to interweaving the text with modern political allegory. This allusion proved to be unavoidable, and rightly so, as the ancient narrative fits so appropriately into current affairs. Ramsay’s choice to embrace rather than deflect this, highlights the ironic unchangeability of time. By combining the original Greek and an English translation, the Classics Department has undertaken a monumental challenge: to retain the beauty of the original script and the complexity of the moral debate, in a way that is simultaneously engaging and relevant in modernity. The staging is not without minor setbacks, such as the occasional technical error and missed cue. However, retrospectively, the scale of the challenge embarked upon is to be admired. Ramsay’s production delivers complex and well-thought-out staging with questionable, shifting moralities at the core of every dialogue; the play ends with the realisation that, ultimately, there are no correct answers.

For many of the performers, these roles were their first in a KCL production. Special shout-outs must go to Freya Thursfield - a first-year student whose depiction of Ismene was sensitive and tinged with inherent melancholy - and Lucy Hall, as Messenger, who, within her small role, brought frantic energy to the stage which was immediately captivating and entertaining. The stand-out performance, however, must go to Molly Gearen as Kreon. Initially, she is the vision of bureaucracy: contained and composed, continuously being followed and questioned, gripping a clipboard as if her life depends on it. Her unravelling is mesmerising to watch; in her final scene, she staggers onto the stage abandoning her composure she falls to her knees wailing to the Gods, lamenting all she has lost. Gearen deserves commendation as this drastic turn of emotion is quite astonishing. Her interpretation of Kreon is refreshing and enthralling, not to mention incredibly impressive when speaking in both Greek and English.

The interpretation of the chorus is another brilliant element of this production. The performers move both as individual entities and as one body, almost always on stage both as proclaimers of the Gods—the only true authority—and journalists grounded in contemporary media. They embody the role of twenty-four-hour media surveillance; Joe’s Nevin’s score wonderfully aligns their narrations, the need for mass consumption, to the heartbeat of society. They never rest as there is always someone to shadow. As the play progresses, they become less ordered; their once perfect form is now disordered and chaotic. The lights darken (an effective choice by designers Ben Aldous and Isaac Freeman) as the flashiness of mass media gives way to the darkness of real human tragedy. It is their role at the finale which truly conveys Ramsay’s message, during their final dirge, a grievance for the lives lost, they quickly abandon their memorandum in favour of the next story.

The attempt to balance the clash between the ancient and modern is apparent within all facets of this production. It is a unique endeavour, daring and impressive for a student creation. However, it is also in this balance where the production struggles. The staging is mismatched, ‘Strength without Terror!’ is repeatedly emblazoned on all sides, coupled with Grecian busts strewn throughout the stage. It feels slightly lacklustre, especially on the large Greenwood stage. A more embellished depiction of a bust would have created that imposing ancient authority, alongside the contemporary slogans, highlighting how dictatorship prevails throughout time. My other issue is the use of the projection to translate Ancient Greek speech. While necessary, the projected translation is set above the stage, meaning we cannot focus entirely on the physical performances.

However, the genuine creativity and originality of the production outweigh these technical difficulties. It is a unique adaptation, bravely bordering antiquity and modernity, putting the production beyond the expectations of a student play. The choice to use both the Ancient Greek and an English translation was a monumental challenge for the cast, highlighting their professionalism and dedication to creating something noteworthy. Both the performers and the crew have earned high acclaim for their passion for the classics and their ingenuity in reinvention.

Edited by Evangeline Stanford, Digital Editor

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