Adapting an Ancient Greek text for a contemporary audience is never easy. However, Actors of Dionysus' crisp new production cleverly maintains the heart and soul of Sophocle's tragedy, whilst bringing it an exciting, relevant edge. Despite a naturally repetitive original text that contains many problematic references, Christopher Adams' dystopian adaptation thoughtfully handles the 'issues' that many avoid - for example, the chorus becomes an artificial intelligence system, similar to Siri. The characters consult the 'City Archivist' AI's to impart useful, (and useless!) information, providing light comedic touches to lift the audience, and touches of wisdom that this repetitive society seems to lack.
The production as a whole feels concise, with a clear concept that remains universally relevant. The futuristic society created is a mixture of a old and new, combining a rusty, dark aesthetic with modern technology. It has a twinge of steampunk, with a flawless set of magnificent wire cages, which is fluidly utilized to great effect, and costume design of muted dark colours with leather. The technical elements create a Blade Runner-esque feel, dark and foreboding. The nature of the themes of power and societal control feel incredibly timely, although I felt I would of liked to have seen a slightly more 'controlled politician' edge at times to Creon. The characters as a whole spend a lot of time in anger, and therefore having a more manipulative, calm edge to Creon would have balanced this nicely.
The strength of this production however lies in its development of usually minor roles. Where the original text lacks in substance for all those except Antigone and Creon, in Actors of Dionysus' version we see an essential narrative from Creon's son Haemon, wife Eurydices and Antigone's sister Ismene. By fleshing out these roles and creating a wealth of perspective from each angle, we avoid the stereotypical 'tyrant' Creon and 'wilful child' Antigone. Instead, the dynamics and relationships between each of them create a layered narrative which accentuates the human nature at the core of the text. Family loyalty, power and love all come into play, with devastating effects heightened by our understanding of their suffering. It is a strong ensemble piece, with a cast who effortlessly transition between roles, each creating a character with emotional depth and heartfelt intention - not always an easy feat with Sophocles work.
Overall, a timely adaptation that cleverly creates a fascinatingly relevant world for the classic text.
Photos by Alex Brenner