Plays built on Greek myths are intimidating for many – but there's really nothing to fear from Antigone Alone. It's clear, accessible, and engaging; a strong solo performance of an easy-to-follow script. It focuses, as the title suggests, on the story of Antigone, whose brothers fought for control of Thebes in days of legend. The winning man refused to allow his defeated brother to be buried… blocking his way to the afterlife, and forcing Antigone to take matters into her own hands.
Joanna Lucas makes Antigone a lively, dynamic character, who springs across the stage to re-enact scenes from her story. Props are brought out sparingly, casting focus on them when they're used, and cleverly highlighting the importance of the rituals surrounding her brother's interment. The urgency in her physical portrayal drew me into the story, and there's a change in tone when she mimics other characters – though I think I'd have enjoyed a little more variety in the portrayal of those ancillary roles.
Michael McEvoy's script sets out to demystify Greek mythology, and the storytelling is certainly well-thought-through. We start in the midst of the action, piquing our interest in Antigone's distress; then as she reflects on her recent past, we gradually learn the sequence of events which has brought her here. This tale is set in an unfamiliar culture, filled with complex relationships and long-forgotten religious rules – yet I never had any difficulty following along.
At times, perhaps, that's carried to a fault; if I'm honest, the crystal-clear delivery and exaggerated actions reminded me a little too much of children's TV. And some of the language jarred as well. It's not that it's modern, it's that it's self-consciously modern, filled with slangy informality and trendy neologisms. Antigone is the daughter of a king and queen; I just don't think this is the tone she would strike at the defining moment of her life.
I wonder, too, if MvEvoy has misjudged how much of the story his audience will already know. My background in the classics is sketchy at best, but even I was aware of what happened to Oedipus, and an unscientific survey of a few of my friends reveals that they do too. So the time Antigone spends on that story goes slowly, while the script's core theme – of the need to take responsibility for your choices – doesn't have the space it needs to develop and grow.
In the final analysis, Antigone Alone isn't really about Antigone. Yes, the story's seen through her eyes, but she doesn't offer much in the way of a new perspective or additional motivation. For the most part, it's a straightforward narration of Greek myths – particularly during her lengthy defence in front of the usurping King Creon. For me, there's a hint of missed opportunity there… but I'm still glad I saw this show, which offers both a fine performance and a gentle education.