Antigone's Death

Imerst (13 Dixon St), Wellington

21/02/2007 - 23/02/2007

NZ Fringe Festival 2007

Production Details

Adaptation of Jean Anuilh’s Antigone,
written and directed by Jaime Dorner

Antigone’s Death is a fresh adaptation of Jean Anuilh’s Antigone, written and directed by Chilean Artist Jamie Dorner playing at Imerst, Dixon Street, for four nights from February 21 as a part of Fringe 07.

Jaime confronts his audience with this perverted post-modern production of a classic myth suited to the theatrically adventurous.

This project updates the themes of oppression from the original Greek tragedy, extrapolating it to our everyday lives investigating the strange vs. the popular, the dictator vs. the people, USA vs. Latin America.

Antigone’s Death researches post-modern trends in the theatre, blending dance, tragedy, comedy, physical theatre and mass media. Antigone’s story is told in a non-chronological order and fragmented way, mystifying the audience with hidden clues and propelling them directly into the alienation of modern battle.

Jaime Dorner trained for four years in Chile, graduating with a Degree in Aesthetic Arts. He has a fascination with the bizarre and a kaleidoscope of talents. He is utterly driven by a love of theatre and this is his Wellington Premier. The cast and crew are coming down from the metropolis of Palmerston North to prove great things can come from the Manawatu!

He says: “Antigone’s Death is a fresh, ludic and lucid play that explores, in a different and innovative way, this Greek tragedy.”

Peri Chapelle
Sam Gordon
Richard The Whale
Lana Sklenars

Suzy Hawes

Theatre ,

55 mins

Dancing on the skin of a classic

Review by John Smythe 22nd Feb 2007

Following the excellent Almost A Bird production of Antigone directed by Netherlands-raised Willem Wassenaar, it is especially interesting to witness a second interpretation of Jean Anouilh’s adaptation of the Sophocles classic. This time it is Chilean artist Jaime Dorner, a graduate in Aesthetic Arts, who helms the el toro productions (Palmerston North) version, Antigone is Dead.

Anouhil adapted the Sophocles original in response to the Nazi occupation of France. Now Dorner and his cast claim to use Anouilh’s play as a starting point “to voice South American protest against recurrent political interference by the United States of America”.

As such – in complete contrast to the intense clarity of Wassenaar et al’s analysis of political power and resistance – there is an agitprop, polemical feel to this production. Rather than transport us to a remote yet unnervingly familiar emotional landscape where we empathetically experience the story while confronting its moral implications, el toro keeps reminding us they are performers working away in this very space at their aesthetic arts.

While the purpose would appear to be political, there is also a personal dimension verging on psycho-drama. “For this work I use the actors and the manuscript as a starting point,” writes Dorner in his programme note. “The latter, however, is only an excuse to present my own fear, love, hate, anger and my actors’ emotions. After this, Antigone will be no longer a universal tragedy but a compilation of specific personal tragedies from every actor included in the creation.”

Peri Chapelle gives us a stroppy Antigone, alone in her own value system. Sam Gordon’s Heamon, who morphs into her pet dog at times, has a dark edge of teenage brat about him. As King Creon – “under the law, not over it” – Richard The Whale (that is his programme credit) makes it clear he is part of a political machine, no longer free to exert his own will. Lana Sklenars’ makes Ismene a hopscotch-playing child while her Chorus-cum-Messenger comes close to hysteria at times as she observes the antics of these fallible humans.

Often initially effective actions – of silence, chasing, laughter, barking – become attenuated to the point of irritation: yes, we get it, please move on. But this too is part of Dorner’s aesthetic. “I am not interested in refined and precise techniques,” he writes, “but in a Scenic Verb; an image, a memory expressed within the body, overstressed and repeated infinitely until it loses its logic and form, concluding with a dance, an expressive dance of these actions.”

The ‘interpretative dance’ sequences also add no greater insight or meaning and, I fear, look awfully like send-ups. Throughout the performance emotions are openly and fully expressed leaving nothing for us to add, connect with or feel. (Truism: the audience is more likely to feel an emotion when the character tries to contain it.) Loudness, in shouting actors and amplified music, also becomes counterproductive very quickly.

A data-show projector is effectively used to paint the space with graffiti-like images and illuminate or obscure the on stage action. Antigone’s humiliation at the hands of the guards is depicted as Guantanamo-like torture. Over all, the commitment of the cast in embracing Dorner’s aesthetic is admirable. But what is in it for us, as we watch them indulge their Aesthetic Arts?

The original song Suzy Hawes comes on to sing at the end, in Celtic folk song style, has no point of connection with the production that I can discern. Indeed the production has become quite disconnected from the core of the Anouilh or Sophocles plays, dancing instead on their skins, rendering them pock-marked, unappealing and unlikely to stimulate further enquiry at political or personal levels.


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