This winter run, SUDS have ambitiously taken Jean Anouilh’s adaptation of Sophocles’ Antigone and performed it with the sincerity and aplomb we have come to expect and enjoy from many of SUDS’ productions.
Director, Hal Conyngham, mentions in the program that the relatively small creative team contributed to the relaxed approach taken to the show. Whether or not this aided in the actors’ performances is beside the point, as Eunice Huang’s restrained lighting design was inspired and transformative, adding tension and atmosphere to the performance, especially during the rather drawn-out monologues of the ubiquitous ‘Usher’, played by Joshua Free. Huang’s sparing use of colour is to be applauded, and the integrated use of levels during the morning and tomb scenes was superbly considered.
The set changes were rather sloppy, with a table being placed too far stage right and half out of the spotlight for the first change of scene. In addition to this, the break between the Usher’s introduction and the beginning of the play seeming to stretch on forever, finally broken by Bel Larcombe’s bawdy screeches of “Antigone! Antigone!”. However, the subsequent exchanges between these two displayed a great dynamic, and Bel’s portrayal of the nursemaid to the two female leads was performed with refreshing ease.
When Antigone is at the end of her tether, ready to accept her fate, considered mad by her family, and foolish by her king, Ellen Marning plays this stripped bare character with the rigidity of an actress well-rehearsed in her lines, yet still unsure of how to show these nuances of character. Marning spends most of the play with her mouth half-hanging open (apparently this constitutes emotion). Her performance is outstripped by Honey Abbott’s portrayal of the ‘more attractive sister’ Ismene – a sad ironic twist of fate for the otherwise capable leading actress.
Special mentions go to Chenier Moore’s mesmerising portrayal of King Creon, working himself up into a frenzy over Antigone’s iron will and his lengthy monologue culminating in his passionate declaration of “life is nothing but the happiness you get out of it”.
Although there are some sparse patches in this production of Antigone – which were most notably line stumbling and length of time of recovery – I looked forward to the moments of strength for these tortured characters, for there were more of those than instances of weakness.