Antigone: An Arabian Tragedy
3 stars ***
Greenside@Nicolson Square (Venue 209)
WITH JULIETTE BINOCHE’S performance as Antigone at the centre of the Edinburgh International Festival theatre programe, it’s fascinating to see how this most powerful of ancient dramas, with its image of one young woman’s rebellion against a law she believes to be unjust, also echoes across the Fringe; and nowhere more so than in this passionate split-stage version from the One World Actors Centre of Kuwait, playing briefly in Edinburgh this week.
Set simultaneously in the contemporary Middle East and in a Celtic Britain with echoes of Game Of Thrones, and based on Jean Anouilh’s 20th century version of the drama, Alison Shan Price’s production uses a fascinating range of techniques to allow for performance in two languages, Arabic and English. Sometimes the actors from the two parallel dramas speak simultaneously, playing the same scenes, weaving their words into other’s silences. Sometimes the Arabic-speaking actors mouth silently like actors in a silent movie, while the English speakers take over the narrative; then sometimes, they play scenes together, the audience gathering the meaning of one language from the responses in another.
Always at the core of the drama, though, is Lebanese actress Diana Sfeir’s thrilling performance as the Arabic-speaking Antigone; and a series of powerful projected images linking what we see to the wars and human rights struggles of our own time. And if this production often looks more like an interesting and sometimes awkward experiment than a fully-made show, its energy is formidable, and full of promise.