Theatre: Antigone

Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh

Neil Cooper, Three stars

Loading article content

OXYGEN House theatre company may have taken a 20-year break since their last production, but the pioneering Edinburgh-based purveyors of dramatic abstraction have retained an inherent sense of style in John Mitchell's production of Sophocles' final play in his Theban trilogy. Presented in association with Acting Out Drama School at the venue where Oxygen House began their adventure in 1987, this regeneration features a largely female cast in Dudley Fitts and Robert Fitzgerald's 1938 translation.

Storm clouds seem to gather from the off amidst the blackness of a bare stage heightened by Phil Cooney's swirling soundscape. Into this step a black shirted chorus who turn their back on the action as Antigone pleads with her sister Ismene to help her bury their rebel brother Polynices against the will of Queen Creon. Creon herself is a lady not for turning, whose apparent strong and stable outlook is doomed to failure as it crumbles following the personal disaster she sets in motion.

With such a young cast led by Kat Shepherd as a fearless Antigone, the play's focus on the power of civil disobedience recalls some all too recent precedents. This becomes even more recognisable when Lucy May Wilson's initially reluctant Ismene stands in solidarity with her sibling. Creon's pig-headed absolutism, meanwhile, as played by a steely Jennifer Loney, lays bare a set of bloody consequences that leaves an entire nation scarred.

Mitchell's seven-strong onstage parade creates a militaristic spectacle that looks to be unbreakable until Antigone steps out of line. The result of this is a kind of revolutionary martyrdom in a martial reinvention of a play that shows the true value of defiance. It also marks what one hopes is the first of many more Oxygen House productions to come.