Review: Antigone

Who: Elena Carapetis (after Sophocoles)
Presented by: State Theatre
When: until 11 June
Where: Odeon Theatre
Tickets: here

Photo: Matt Byrne

The ludicrous thought that ancient misogynistic narratives are exhibits of the past is shattered in Playwright Elena Carapetis’ Antigone.  

What starts as a retelling of the classic Greek Tragedy takes an uncomfortable and all-too-real dive into the twenty-first century, revealing the prevalence of the well-known plotline in our society today.  

Sophocles’ original Tragedy plays out in the following way: Antigone speaks the truth to a King who refuses to listen. He dislikes her words and sentences her to death. Antigone is remembered as a heroine, an undeserving victim punished by a powerful man who lacks empathy and perspective. Modest society mutter their thoughts and prayers.  

Sound familiar?

In one hundred minutes, Carapetis shows that despite exhausting #MeToo movements and decades of life-endangering feminist resistance, women today continue to share Antigone’s struggle against patriarchy.

The play begins with black and white footage from the 1961 film Antigoni, showing a scene where Antigone (Irene Papas) informs her sister Ismene (Maro Kontou) of her decision to stand up to their uncle, King Creon of Thebes. 

Carapetis travels forward to the twenty first century, where Antigone’s spirit is captured in several different female characters (Kathryn Adams, Chiara Gabrielli and Kidaan Zelleke). While the Antigones of the twenty first century are located in different contexts, they share the same frustrations over gendered inequalities. 

In one scene, Antigone is embodied in a young woman who is frustrated with mens’ power to do whatever they please: from skipping chores as young boys to squirting sperm around like it’s a free unwanted champagne shower for all.

In another scene, Antigone is embodied in a grassroots rebel, who is mocked about her gender by the politician she holds hostage at gunpoint.

And, in a despairing and moving scene, she is embodied in a daughter, mortified by her father’s coercive control over her mother.

These twenty first century Antigones mirror woman we all know, or, more likely, have all been.

References to modern history are written into the play in an engaging way, with certain quotes so absurd that they could win an award in misogyny, had they not already been spoken by some of the world’s most powerful politicians and public figures.

Kathryn Adams, Chiara Gabrielli and Kidaan Zelleke radiate a youthful zest and warrior spirit as they kick, scream and dance to feminist anthems. A simple set of a few blocks accompany their thoughtful movements, highlighting the experienced ways they use their body language for storytelling.

Through a number of humorous elements – including Disney pop power ballads and dazzling oversized vulva pants – the play certainly lives up to the State Theatre Company’s description of being “a love letter to girls and pop princesses”.

Let this letter be your motivation to challenge patriarchal systems. 

4 out of 5 stars

– Sarah McLean

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