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Edinburgh International Festival 2015


Ivo van Hove and Juliette Binoche

Genre: Drama, Theatre

Venue: King's Theatre


Low Down

Ivo van Hove directs Juliette Binoche and an excellent cast in Sophocles’ Antigone with a new translation by Anne Carson.


Ivo van Hove directs Antigone, currently on tour at the 2015 Edinburgh International Festival from 12 to 22 August at the King’s Theatre. Antigone is headlined by the acclaimed actor Juliette Binoche, with an excellent cast.

Antigone’s brother Polyneikes has been killed but Kreon says he was a traitor, therefore, refuses him a proper burial. In this play Antigone makes her case to Kreon to bury her brother.

Sophocles wrote the original version of the play which has been translated for van Hove by Anne Carson. Van Hove has been widely acclaimed for his unusual but stark powerful choices in his recent directing on Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge. Antigone’s set and lighting design by Jan Versweyveld is stark and streamlined in it’s all black set, a wide stage with a raised platform, and a lower area resembling a slick city flat with built in sofa and table. On the back wall there is a huge disk, which changes in significance during the play.

As soon as the play starts there is a deliberateness in the pacing of the spoken text. The language, updated by Carson, is spoken in a restrained and pointed ‘unpresentational’ and unemotional way that takes a bit of getting used to at first. The addition of body microphones on most of the actors means it is possible to speak softly with nuances and still be heard very clearly. This allows the actors, the excellent Patrick O’Kane’s Kreon in particular, to sound like he is thinking about what he is saying as he talks to his fellow characters – and not ‘proclaiming’ or projecting his speeches. His scenes are very effective and there is a combustible tension when he realizes that Antigone washed her brother.

The five-person Chorus is fascinating – each actor in the Chorus doubles up as another character: Obi Abili is also a Guard, Kirsty Bushnell also Ismene, Samuel Edward-Cook is Haimon, Finbar Lynch plays Teiresias and Kathryn Pogson plays Eurydike. These characters stay on stage a lot of the time, and transition effortlessly from the Chorus – hanging out in the living room – to their second character. They each distinguish themselves as both characters, particularly Abili’s matter of fact contemporary take as the Guard, which added humour, planned or not.

Juliette Binoche’s Antigone is fresh, raw, determined and naïve, believing that it is her brother’s right to an honourable burial and she fights for it. Binoche and O’Kane’s scene where Antigone tells Kreon that she did right by her brother is authentic, bringing out Kreon’s paternal side. Bushnell’s intervention in this family crisis as Ismene, fighting with Kreon for her sister, Antigone’s life is a high point for these three actors.

Modern costumes by An d’Huys comprising black or dark textured overcoats, suits and Binoche’s two piece trouser and short sleeved top add to the production’s contemporary feel. Video projections of street scenes and others by Tai Yarden play intermittently throughout the play, with chilling images near the end.

This is a new take on Antigone which is very interesting and quite effective, although stark. There are one or two odd choices in this production. However, the pacing lets the audience in to listen, reflect and appreciate the language and situation.

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