Studio 77, Victoria University, 77 Fairlie Tce, Kelburn, Wellington

05/07/2007 - 15/07/2007

Production Details

By Sophocles
Directed/Designed by Tolis Papazoglou


This is an innovative production concept. A Chamber production of an immortal Classic.

It incorporates the essence of Greek culture by using the framework of a traditional Greek band. This is a new, original translation by Tolis Papazoglou and studded with music inspired by ancient musical tradition.

A challenging production within a compact but spectacular contemporary setting. A very different Antigone

After King Oedipus’ death his two sons, Eteocles and Polyneikes, were to govern Thebes one year each, alternating each other.

Eteocles ruled for the first year but at the end of his rule instead of surrendering the throne to his brother he secured himself on the throne.

Polyneikes then escaped to Argos where, with the help of six other Heroes he gathered an army, returned to Thebes and in the ensued battle the two brothers killed each other in single combat.

Creon, their uncle from their mother’s side, assumes power and becomes King. On his orders Eteocles is given a Hero’s funeral as the defender of the homeland, whereas Polyneikes is left unburied on the battlefield “to be eaten by the scavenging birds”. Whoever would try to bury him would themselves be put to death.

Antigone, strongly believing that this edict was against divine will, decides to bury her brother with honour. Thus she pits herself against King Creon.

Supported by The Wellington Classics Association and VUW Theatre Programme.

(In order of - appearance)


PATRON:  Professor of Classics John Davidson

Theatre ,

Searing examination of justice, authority and power

Review by Helen Sims 13th Jul 2007

I have to confess that although I have been educated to a moderate extent in the fundamentals of Greek drama and its most famous tragic and comedic scripts, I have been exposed to a pitifully small amount of it live. Antigone at Victoria University’s Studio 77 represented a welcome opportunity to see one of my favourites for the first time on the stage. It absolutely did not disappoint, being a well thought out production that presented the essence of the tragic story and its themes. It oscillated between raw human emotion and stylised mask work with great effect.

For those unfamiliar with the story of Antigone plenty of background information is given in the programme, although I thought that highly accessible translation of the play (by director Tolis Papazoglou, John Davidson and Robin Payne) with editing done on the rehearsal floor, made this unnecessary to an adequate understanding the play, although it does provide extra background. Antigone is one of the daughters of Oedipus, the children of whom are cursed as they are products of an incestuous union between mother and son. Antigone’s brothers, Polyneikes and Eteokles have killed each other in a quarrel over the throne of Thebes. The brother of their mother, Kreon, takes over the throne and orders that while Eteocles may be buried, Polyneikes must lay exposed to rot and be savaged by carrion as a perceived enemy of the state, and orders death to anyone who tries to bury him. Antigone, who is now betrothed to Kreon’s son Aimon, tries to enlist the help of her sister Ismene to bury their brother. Ismene refuses, but Antigone carries out her plan and is duly arrested and brought defiantly before Kreon, who condemns her to death, despite the impassioned pleas of Ismene and Aimon. Antigone believes her actions were honourable and sanctioned by the Gods, so therefore not truly unlawful. Predictably, the injustice of Kreon’s sentence comes back to haunt him as he realises the injustice of enforcing his edict (he is helped to this conclusion by the counsel of the blind prophet Tiresias). However, he is too late and consequently loses everyone he loves. The play ends with him lamenting his actions and blindness to what justice truly is.

Antigone is a searing examination of concepts of justice, authority and power, and the preoccupations of Sophocles resonate with a modern audience – the classic problem of moral versus legal authority and laws is with us still. These are conveyed fully by the cast, most of whom are given an impassioned speech at some point in the production. Antigone also has distinct feminist overtones that are exploited in this production – Kreon seems particularly enraged that it is a woman that has dared to disobey him. As Antigone, Beatrice Papazoglou is righteous and indignant; Gavin Richards as Kreon displays an amazing range from blazing rage to propaganderist ruler to a remorseful and broken man. The entire cast is strong and comfortable in their roles and chorus work, exploiting moments of comedy and highly dramatic tragedy. Their performances are complemented by simple but evocative music by Matt Butt on the mandolin, from which he extracts some discordant and beautiful noises. There was a sense of perfect collision of the young and the experienced across the cast and production team.

This was a beautiful production, that felt entirely faithful to the Greek tenants of drama and yet also highly accessible to a New Zealand audience. Onstage Projects demonstrates that highly arresting, powerful and relevant drama can be produced from classical scripts and on a minimal budget. More productions are slated in the programme as being in the works – I will eagerly look forward to them. Get along to see this one before it finishes on Saturday.

Originally published in The Lumière Reader.


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The price of hubris

Review by John Smythe 11th Jul 2007

Having seen two productions of Jean Anouilh’s Antigone in this year’s Fringe (notably the Willem Wassenaar-directed production), this is a splendid opportunity to return to the Sophocles original, especially when it is directed and designed by no less a luminary than Tolis Papazoglou, and performed by a strong professional cast.

In essence, Antigone is a morality tale about what happens when a ruler attempts to assert power in defiance of ‘natural law’, characterised in Ancient Greek drama as the will of the Gods. What we may now see as ‘crimes against nature’ are dramatised as ‘hubris’, the excessive pride, self-confidence or arrogance whereby mere mortals seek to set themselves above the Gods, with inevitably tragic consequences.

Antigone picks up the story a generation after the best-known Greek tragedy, King Oedipus, in which, in the very act of attempting to defy the prophecy that he would kill his father and marry his mother, Oedipus did exactly that. He and Jocasta, Queen of Thebes, had four children – Polyneikes, Eteokles, Antigone and Ismene – before Oedipus discovered his crime of hubris, whereupon Jocasta hanged herself, he gouged out his eyes and Jocasta’s brother, Kreon, assumed the throne. Oedipus went to Colonos with Antigone … and when he died, he blessed both his daughters and cursed his sons to die by each other’s hand.

Now, in a quarrel over the throne of Thebes, Polyneikes – who had been forced into exile for trying to reclaim the throne – and Eteokles have indeed killed each other. Kreon’s answer to the unrest that follows is to assert what he sees as his absolute power; to show who is boss and intimidate the people into acquiescence by making an example of miscreants.

Apart from using modern dress (simple costume designs by Gillie Coxill) and the projected image of a slain soldier fallen from his jeep in a Middle Eastern wasteland, this production lets the story speak for itself through a crisp, unadorned translation (by Tolis Papazoglou, John Davidson and Robin Payne, edited on the rehearsal floor by the company). Any further allegorical connections with world politics or domestic affairs are left for us to muse upon.

A semi circle of high-backed chairs faces the audience across a circle faintly inscribed like a worn old coin (later, when Kreon claims to the blind Teiresias that all prophets are in love with money, Teiresias counters that all rulers are in love with corruption). A lone musician (Matt Butt) takes the central seat and plucks bouzouki sounds from a mandolin. The actors gather, hang white masks on the chair backs, sit … and the play begins.

With great clarity and just enough emotion to feed the drama without over-stating it, Antigone (Beatrice Papazoglou) shares her grief at their brothers’ deaths with her sister Ismene (Olivia Violet Robinson) and reveals that Kreon (Gavin Richards) has decreed that while Eteokles has had a proper funeral, Polyneikes may not be buried but must be left exposed to the ravages of carrion, animals and insects.

Antigone – who is betrothed to Kreon’s son Aimon (Jade Daniels) – determines to defy the decree, on pain of death, by giving Polyneikes a proper burial. As always with Greek tragedy, such actions are carried out off stage. A guard (Brian Hotter) tells Kreon what has happened and brings Antigone to him. Ismene tries to share the guilt but Antigone won’t hear of it. Even when Aimon tells his father that he admires her actions and considers them moral, Kreon insists on making ‘good’ the punishment for Antigone’s ‘crime’.

Having consigned Antigone to being entombed alive in a cave, Kreon eventually heeds the wise words of the blind prophet Teiresias (Tony Hopkins) and relents – too late. Both Antigone and Kreon’s beloved son Aimon have committed suicide. The price of hubris has been paid.

Given the expositional nature of Ancient Greek tragedy, directors, designers and actors often over-compensate for the lack of on-stage physical action with major design elements and highly emotive performances. This ‘chamber’ production avoids such pitfalls, happily blending storytelling and commentary with the few moments of in-the-moment experience to telling – and showing – effect.

The steely determination Beatrice Papazoglou brings to Antigone gains even greater significance when she gives way to fear and vulnerability in the end. This is nicely offset by the emotion-based vacillation of Olivia Violet Robinson’s less heroic Ismene.

Gavin Richards captures the essence of a King (or President?) who is out of his depth and losing power the more he tries to assert it. As Aimon, Jade Daniels epitomises love-driven personal integrity, even if it is self-interested. He also plays Kreon’s wife Evrydike (sic) in a half mask.

Brian Hotter characterises the loyal Guard with just enough humour to alleviate the tale’s intensity without derailing it, and delivers his messenger-cum-chorus lines with purpose and clarity. As Chorus 2, and initially performing as if his main intention is to remember his lines, thus diluting their import, Tony Hopkins finally comes into his own as Teiresias.

The white full-face masks are beautifully utilised in the musical interludes – exquisitely rendered by Matt Butt – that accompany the recorded Greek language narrations that resonate through the millennia in Tolis Papazoglou’s unmistakeable baritone.

Such a rare opportunity to rediscover the roots of European drama – occasioned by an Australasian Classical Studies conference – is to be treasured.


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