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Courageous and masterful production, alive with ideas

ON MELBOURNE’S theatre scene, Liminal Theatre stands alone in the breadth of the cultural dialogue that informs its practice. Co-founders Robert Draffin and Mary Sitarenos are as much arts ambassadors and students of the world as they are theatre makers, drawing inspiration from residencies in Indonesia, China, Taiwan and most recently Senegal in West Africa.

The company’s production of Antigone is a potent fusion of eclectic influences. It opens on Antigone and her sister Ismene, trapped and starving in a Thebes that has witnessed a firestorm. They learn of the death of their brother Polynices, and of Creon’s refusal to accord him burial rites, just as the king and his soldiers burst onstage in surgical masks.

The vaguely futuristic evocation of a state of total war soon dissolves into a world of shadows. Much of the play is delivered through ritualised physical performance where the characters are literally against the wall — racked forms groping towards distortions of light.

Visual chiaroscuro creates many arresting visual and dramatic moments: Antigone creeping through an umbral underworld; Creon in white face, blinded by light, monstrous shadows leaping from his tyranny; Tiresias split between a dreadlocked African and a white woman in black lace, the two alternating dire prophecies in French and English.

Whoever is responsible for the dramaturgy has done it brilliantly, mixing fragments of Sophocles’ text with some of the more famous 20th century adaptations. The script distils the dramatic essence of Antigone: veering between wild poetry and aphorism, oppression and defiance. And the acting ensemble largely brings an acute linguistic intelligence, carrying the audience inexorably forward on a tragic tide.

Although it doesn’t always maintain intensity, Sitarenos’ production is so original and alive with ideas that we can only hope it is developed further and receives a second life.

Project Title: 
Antigone
Publication Details
Publication: 
The Age
Author: 
Cameron Woodhead
Publication Date: 
Sun, 28/06/2009
URL: 
http://www.theage.com.au/news/entertainment/arts/courageous-and-masterful-production-alive-with-ideas/2009/06/28/1246127426528.html