Saturday, October 10, 2009

Night at the Theatah: Antigone

I don't know why I haven't done this more often. Soulpepper, which is a local (and really good) theatre company, performs at the Young Centre in the Distillery District. (A post on the awesomeness that is the Distillery District will be coming soon, once Katie, Hayley and I head over there for an afternoon of Mill St. beer, Soma chocolate, and ogling fancy kitchen gadgets we can't afford.) While their tickets are not cheap ($45 for the best seats, $28 for students), their rush tickets are a serious bargain: show up an hour before the show starts, take a number, and get a ticket for $20. How can you go wrong?

Katie invited me to go see Antigone last night, which my friends Thom and Margo had already seen and liked. I won't tell you the story--you can look it up easily enough, as it has been around since 442 B.C.--but the concept is enthralling: how do you as a viewer choose sides when the people in conflict are both clearly, in some way, right?

The production, in the words of The Globe and Mail's J. Kelly Nestruck, "deliver[s] exactly what you want from a tragedy." I'm not convinced. While Antigone is supposed to leave you wondering what the best choice is--personal conviction, or the greater good--Liisa Repo-Martell is so obviously wrong as Antigone, and R.H. Thomson so obviously right as Creon, that the choice is made for you. You agree with Creon, because Antigone can't convince anyone, least of all herself. If she had been played differently, or by a different actor, the tension would have been compounded, as would the tragedy of the story. As it was, I came out enthralled with Thomson and excited to see more productions with him in it, but unimpressed with Martell.

Along with Thompson, the set was fantastic, although there were some serious blocking issues (at one point, Martell delivers a crucial line with her back to the audience and Thomson's face obscured by her head. Did they not think it was important for us to see what was going on?) Black-panelled walls, a few chairs and a desk, a bench, moody lighting, and a closed-circuit security system. That's it. Tragedies are simple--as the Chorus tells us, they're peaceful because there's no hope to drive us crazy--and the set really played that up.

I love going to the theatre, and last night was a perfect example of why. Go see! Can't wait to see Civil Elegies. Toronto's first poet laureate Dennis Lee (of Alligator Pie fame) on "the heart of what Canada was, is and could be."


moonandtree said...

Even with a bad Antigone, this production still got me - well, I had read it before. So good. I cried, I'll admit it.

Melissa said...

It got me too. When Creon finds out that Haemon and his wife are both dead, I cried too. Much credit to R.H. Thomson.