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Antigone, a modern recount of a Greek tragedy
April 13, 2015, 12:34 pm

Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah hosted Jean Anouih’s play ‘Antigone’, based on Sophocles’ tragedy which was performed by One World Actors Centre. In the Greek legend, Antigone defies her uncle King Creon’s orders by giving a proper burial for her brother Polynice, who is considered a traitor, forgoing her love and security. For that action she is locked in a cave where she meets her end.

The story according to the original legend is that after Oedipus left the throne, his two sons, Eteocles and Polynices, agreed to rule Thebes in alternate years. However, Eteocles, reneged on the agreement at the end of his first year of rule. Polynices then raised an army of Thebes' enemies and led them against the city. The invading army was defeated, but Eteocles and Polynices both killed each other. Their uncle Creon assumes power in Thebes, and declares that as he was the protector of the city, Eteocles' body will be properly buried, but Polynices, because he attacked the city, will be left unburied on the battlefield.

Antigone decides she must disobey, arguing that a law of man which violates religious law is no law at all. She performs a ceremonial burial - a simple sprinkling of dust over the body - but is apprehended by the guards, and taken before Creon. Her uncle tries to disuade her and cover up the crime, but then seeing her resolve decrees that she will be sealed in a cave. Creon's son, Haemon, however, is betrothed to Antigone, and protests her sentence and lectures his father on wise leadership. Creon refuses to change his mind. When the prophet Tiresias informs Creon that the gods are angry with his judgement concerning Polynices, he finally relents, but is too late. When the cave is opened to retrieve Antigone, she has already hung herself. In his grief and anger, Haemon makes an attempt Creon's life. He fails, and then kills himself instead. Thus at the end of the play, Creon is ruler over an orderly city, but he has lost everything he holds dear. The Antigone play receives admiration for being the first and most enduring statement of the conflict between the need for social order and the inner calling that a higher law may supersede human law.

The adapted play in Arabic and English was performed on 9 and 10 April respectively at the Amricani Cultural Centre for Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah’s 20th Cultural Season. The play delivers a gripping tale imbued with moral and political sophistication that appealed to both the English and Arab speaking audiences.

The Times Kuwait spoke with Alison Shan Price Director of 'Antigone' 2015 and CEO of One World Actors Centre after the show, she said, “We chose the play 'Antigone' because it was prevalent to what was happening throughout history and in the world today. Roman Britain was chosen as the location and era for the English version as that was the time Britain was invaded by Romans and had to follow new rules. This show was performed by our English speaking actors with Eléni Rebecca as Antigone and Brian McLaughlin as King Creon. Contemporary Middle East was chosen as the location and time for the Arabic version to honour the people of an invaded country fighting for the right to keep their traditions. This show was performed by our Arabic speaking actors with Dr. Diana Sfeir as Antigone and Bassam al Othman as King Creon.”

The commanding voice of Bassam al Othman, a famous Kuwaiti broadcaster, was well complemented by the lead actress playing the quintessential Arab woman who understood the bond of traditions. Their interactions depicted the struggle between following obligatory beloved traditions or yielding to modern demands with each actor conveying their dedication to their beliefs. The setting and story represented the various dimensions of Arab culture that resonated with the audience. The Arabic and English tales shared a common theme of justice, but the marked differences distinguished the stories and gave a unique perspective to the audience.

One World Actors Centre's powerful creation delivered an impactful translation of the stage play and the brilliant concept shined in both stories. The actors’ passionate representation is sublime, from the dynamic Antigone with her fierce conviction to the compelling personality of the King Creon. This was the most vivid portrayal of the tension between obedience to the state and the commitment to a personal moral code.

The plays packed in an abundance of intricate plotting, emotional depth and was very thought-provoking that made it hugely successful.  The two shows will be combined to present the first bilingual ‘Antigone’, sponsored by Alghanim Industries, at the International Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland UK in August, and the final show will reference the bravery of the Kuwaiti women during the 1990 Invasion.

Christina Pinto
Staff Writer


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