Posts Tagged ‘Sophocles’

Antigone, Greenwich Theatre 30 October

October 30, 2017

**

antigone_drone

From AoD trailer

This was the first Actors of Dionysus production I had seen.

It was noisy.

For a large amount of the time, I sat huddled-up with my eyes closed wishing it would do away.  There was no poetry and no heroism and very little chorus, just people running and shouting and 1980s radiophonic effects.

Antigone did what she did with no inner conflict or anguish and she and Ismene shouted at each other.  Then Creon’s world fell on him and it was over.

I think the generality of the audience may have understood what the obeah woman Tiresias was saying but I didn’t.

On the positive side, well, drones, it was the first time I had seen a drone and know I know what they look like.  Three lines of actual Sophocles at the end suggested what might have been, in another world perhaps.  The description of Emily Davison’s death might also have become something if given a chance.

Dismiss me.  Enough.

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Antigone/Lysistrata, Cambridge Arts Theatre 13 October

October 14, 2016

**/****

antigone

Set for Antigone (picture acquired from Twitter)

So this year’s Cambridge Greek Play (in Ancient Greek, with surtitles) was a double-bill of Antigone and LysistrataAntigone is these days as close to being unsinkable as a Greek play can be, while productions very often make a mess of Lysistrata by taking it literally–seriously, even.

Things turned out rather differently this time round.  Antigone displayed a fine collection  of the clichés that even the London stage has finally managed to just about rid itself of:  fences, barbed wire, battledress, battery-powered torches, submachine guns, men in suits…I closed my eyes and endured.  To be fair, it got better as the thing went on and they performers relied more on their native wits.  And there was a standout performance from counter-tenor Jack Hawkins as Teiresias with very beautiful counter-tenorial music too.  But why (for instance) did Antigone dart anxiously upstage and downstage when she was supposed to be processing towards her bridal tomb?

I would have given up and gone home at half-time but I didn’t want to disturb the couple of old dears who had me wedged in.  The young woman of East Asian heritage sitting on the other side of me asked whether this was it–I replied that there was another play to come, a comedy indeed.

Then we had Lysistrata done as a musical comedy, and very funny it was too.  This time, we had the standout performer (Natasha Cutler-a real musical comedy princess) in the title role, and that helped a lot of course.

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ἀφεκτέα τοίνυν ἐστὶν ἡμῖν τοῦ πέους. (=it is necessary then for us to give up cock).

The audience also got to sing along with οὐδεὶς οὔτε μοιχὸς οὔτ᾽ ἀνήρ (line 212=no-one, neither lover nor husband), while the surtitles promised a Cambridge Scholarship in Classics for an explanation of the lion-on-a-cheesegrater position. (Line  231 οὐ στήσομαι λέαιν᾽ ἐπὶ τυροκνήστιδος = I won’t crouch down like the lioness on a cheesegrater. You’d better ask Simon Goldhill about that gender reassignment.)

lion

No.  Not like that.  Not at all like that.  (Picture from Twitter.)

The pedant could of course cavil–once Boris Johnson and Donald Trump had appeared on stage they should have been properly savaged, especially in respect of diminutive and deformed genitalia, while a headless pig looking for David Cameron would have been a good Aristophanic joke. The famously…well, tedious…ball-of-wool metaphor was interpreted via interpretive dance, when one thing it certainly recommends is favourable treatment of useful foreigners–surely an opportunity for further kicking of the Brexit-Trump gang. You can also ask whether a production largely attended by pupils of fee-paying schools could ever permit itself proper Aristophanic obscenity…

Successive approximations to Antigone, lines 801-816

January 13, 2016

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From:  Sophocles Antigone, ed Mark Griffith, CUP 1999

1.  Without referring to anything

CHORUS Now already I bear myself
Out of the laws, having seen these things, I cannot
Hold back any longer the springs of tears,
Because I see the general marriage-chamber
This Antigone finishing.

ANTIGONE You see me, oh citizens of the fatherland,
Going the new way,
Seeing the new light of the sun,
And never again; but the general Hades
Is taking me alive to the bank of
Acheron, and I have not obtained
Bridal songs, nor will has in any way
A bridal song sounded at my wedding,
But I will marry at Acheron.

2.  After consulting LSJ and the notes at the back

CH Even I myself am being swept
Out of the proper bounds, having seen these things, I cannot
Hold back any longer the springs of tears,
Because I see the general marriage-chamber
This Antigone making her way to it.

AN You see me, oh citizens of the fatherland,
Going the last way,
Seeing the last light of the sun,
And never again; but the Hades who puts all to bed
Is taking me alive to the bank of
Acheron, and I have not any share of
Bridal songs, nor will has in any way
A bridal song sounded at my wedding,
But I will marry at Acheron.

3. After comparison with Lloyd-Jones’s Loeb

CH Even I myself am being swept
Out of the proper bounds, having seen these things, I cannot
Hold back any longer the springs of tears,
Because I see the general marriage-chamber
This Antigone making her way to it.

AN See me, oh citizens of the fatherland,
Going the last way,
Seeing the last light of the sun,
And never again; but the Hades who puts all to bed
Is taking me alive to the bank of
Acheron, and I have not any share of
Bridal songs, nor will has in any way
A bridal song sounded at my wedding,
But I will be the bride of Acheron.

4.  After pre-class revisions

CH  Even I myself am being swept
Out of the proper bounds, having seen these things, I cannot
Hold back any longer the springs of tears,
Because I see the marriage-chamber where all must lie
This Antigone making her way to it.

AN See me, oh citizens of the fatherland,
Going the last way,
Seeing the last light of the sun,
And never again; but the Hades who puts all to bed
Is taking me alive to the bank of
Acheron, and I have not any share of
Processional songs, nor has in any way
A bridal song sounded at my wedding,
But I will be the bride of Acheron.

5.  After class

CH Even I myself am being swept
Out of the proper bounds, having seen these things, I cannot
Hold back any longer the springs of tears,
Because I see the marriage-chamber where all must lie
This Antigone making her way to it.

AN See me, oh citizens of the fatherland,
Going the last way,
Glimpsing the last light of the sun,
And never again; but the Hades who puts all to bed
Is taking me alive to the bank of
Acheron, and I have not any share of
Processional songs, nor has in any way
A bridal song celebrated me at my wedding,
But I will be the bride of Acheron.

Θρῄσσησιν!?

November 25, 2015

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In the really excellent edition of Antigone by Mark Griffith, we come across the passage above in the third choral song, and are immediately struck by the rather strange dative plural Θρῄσσησιν, or Θρήισσησιν if you prefer.  Why not Θρήισσηισιν? Is this a new form, or was somebody suffering from iota fatigue?

There is an article that says
As for morphology, in the dative plurals of α- and o-declensions, both lyric and non-lyric passages of tragedy use longer forms (-αισι(ν) and -οισι(ν)) alongside the usual -αις and -οις. Until 420 BCE, Attic inscriptions frequently employ the forms -ασι (with long alpha) and -ησι, which Aeschylus may have used. Lloyd-Jones and Wilson occasionally print such forms in Sophocles (Ant. 589 Θρῄσσησιν, in lyrics)

That seems to be a reference to the Oxford Classical Text Sophocles, where the Preface says, and in English, strangely enough:In matters of orthography we have paid some attention to the evidence provided by epigraphical discoveries, even though one cannot be sure that poets followed exactly the same rules as officials responsible for drafting public decrees. [p xiii]

It seems reasonable  that if you were having lots of stuff engraved in stone you would naturally try to leave out iotas or indeed anything else.

Apart from that, Griffith seems to be indicating by modest silence that he prepared his own edition of the text, but it looks as though he may have been starting from the OCT rather than actual manuscripts.

Oedipus, Blue Elephant Theatre 01 March

March 2, 2013

**

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Picture I lifted from onestoparts.com

So.  Let’s try to work this out.  Sophocles wrote Oedipus Rex and Oedipus at Colonus, while there is an Oedipus by Seneca.  But this was Oedipus ‘After Sophocles’  as pastiche Shakespeare, complete with painful rhyming tags, and complemented by some daring anachronisms.  I suppose that adrenaline, dating from about 1900, would be the most extreme, but the real question is how can the curse or prophecy of pagan gods  have any effect on characters who swear Jesus Christ?

Anyway, we had Oedipus in the manner of a modern production of Coriolanus or Macbeth, with the protagonist swaggering his way through extraneous scenes of martial display (war and plague had become very mixed up here) until he came to a terrible realisation that we didn’t care about because the whole thing was so exteriorised and the text was so clunky.

There were some beautiful stage pictures along the way, an effective scene between Oedipus and Jocasta, and for some reason I enjoyed the messenger speech (delivered by Nasa Ohalet) describing Jocasta’s death, which had here been overelaborated into a universal Wagnerian conflagration.

At the end, two girls behind me opined that the beginning (chorus singing in smoky darkness) had been stunning and that Jocasta (Samantha Andersen) had been very good.  To me, the opening seemed to be a typical Lazarus trick or mannerism that I’ve now seen often enough to start wishing for Katie Mitchell. Samantha Andersen was indeed very good, putting colour and emotion and variation into her part–but that’s what we needed from Oedipus and didn’t get from Robin Holden here.

See here for what I know of other Greek plays in London.

Antigone Southwark Playhouse 21 May

May 21, 2011

****

'Antigone' is not a liberal (or feminist) tract and Antigone is not Sophie Scholl! (From Southwark Playhouse Facebook page)

So at long last someone has solved the problems of staging Greek tragedy.  While the pre-show publicity had threatened all kinds of nonsense about the struggle for freedom in the contemporary Middle East, the production got it right.  Antigone confined in a chador as in her social position is not some feminist heroine but on the edge of madness struggling with a conflict that is really past bearing, but the adamantine nature of a Sophoclean hero means she has to go on and accept the impossible.  Here Creon’s suffering effectively mirrors hers but he’s really out of his league–he wants to refuse the burden of his own necessity but then finds even that is beyond him.

The setting, which to me was essentially Iranian-Moghul, worked really well!  There was a sense of conventions which you did not have to fully understand.  You could accept that these things could happen there, that people might be constrained by the curse of the Labdacids without needing to worry about who they might be.  The chorus was about the best-handled I’ve ever see, with singing, dancing and appropriate reactions to what was going on among the principals–a triumph of precise direction.  The setting also meant that the chief characters were gorgeously apparrelled, as they would have been in Athenian performances of 2500 years ago, and appeared as people whose fates could sway a realm.

Moghul court (I'd say) with obligatory fatigued soldier in background (from Southwark Playhouse FB page again)

I thought that Eleanor Wyld was very good as the nervous, struggling and overborne Antigone and the pain of Jamie Glover as Kreon effectively mirrored hers.  And I liked Deborah Grant’s Eurydike, full of foreboding, as well.  I think the thing only needs a little running-in and some more consistency to become a complete triumph.  I didn’t understand why we had Christopher Ragland doing the guard who had failed to prevent Polyneikes being buried as an American soldier caught out at Abu Ghraib, and Edward Petherbridge gave us a compositely-Shakespearean Tiresias, delivering the Fool’s material in the manner of Lear.  I’d also seen the obligatory attributes of katiemitchellism–TV cameras, lecterns, soldiers in modern uniform, clipboards–rather too many times before.

Quite often whoever it was who was speaking remained unlit–that may have been deliberate in the case of Antigone, unable to break free from the darkness that surrounded her, but it happened with other characters too.  Some of the voice-overs I couldn’t hear and a few words of dialogue were blotted out by trains passing overhead.

But this production promises to become very very very good indeed…

Greek Drama in London 2011

December 25, 2010

Information from this posting has now been movd to an updated page here.

 

Elektra Young Vic 02 July 

July 4, 2010

****

Picture from Young Vic Facebook page

The question is always how to adopt the distancing and generalisation of Greek tragedy to the modern stage, which operates by precisely the opposite principles, and where Elektra’s sweatstained singlet and bloodied face are present all to present.

This interpretation, using a new translation by Anne Carson,  followed Milton:

No light; but rather darkness visible
Served only to discover sights of woe,
Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace
And rest can never dwell, hope never comes
That comes to all, but torture without end

and the lighting by Guy Hoare certainly deserved credit for making the darkness visible (able to be seen through, in this context).

In pursuit of the same idea, the text left out rather a lot of the mythological and gnomic structure of  the original.  The Clytaemnestra of Nadia Cameron-Blakey impassively delivered her lines from an infinity of cold, while I enjoyed the nervous Chrysothemis of Amanda Hale in an Emily Dickinson dress.

Amanda Hale as Chrysothemis

But did Lydia Leonard as Elektra show the true Sophoclean adamantine intransigence, obdurate pride and steadfast hate, or was she merely put-upon?  Well, after receiving the false news of Orestes dying, she began to dig, and then a little of the magic appeared like the corner of a coffin.  But I think that the recognition scene between her and Orestes works better if they dispute for the ashes-containing urn as for his identity; here she took it away and cradled it in her arms.

I’m not sure that it really makes sense if the action already seems to be taking place among the chthonic deities; it is the actions of the characters above the earth while they can see the light that lead them there.  But this was a serious and highly competent attempt at tackling the problems of staging Greek drama, and I’ve no idea why the Young Vic felt they had to put it on for free.  It was co-credited to Headlong Theatre, and was without doubt a great deal better than the paid-for productions of theirs I’ve seen.