But director Polly Findlay’s urgent interpretation of Sophocles’ two and a half thousand year old work (using a 1986 version by the late Don Taylor) takes place in a more or less modern hub of political activity and grips from start to finish.
Antigone’s brothers have killed each other in battle and, whilst bulletins bring the latest updates, Creon (their uncle) has decreed that, though one has been buried as a hero, the body of the other, Polynices, is to be left to rot, unhonoured. To him, the security of Thebes is paramount whilst for Jodie Whittaker’s determined Antigone (following her conscience even on pain of death) the obligations of familial duty supersede the dictates of Creon’s law.
Neither the reasoning of his son Haemon (Luke Newberry) nor the prophecies of blind Teiresias (Jamie Ballard) can sway Christopher Eccleston’s intransigent Creon. He barely falters from his chosen path until Kobna Holdbrook-Smith’s Messenger brings him the devastating news precipitated by his own tyrannical actions and his fatally arrogant refusal to recognise the power of the gods.
Olivier at the National, South Bank, SE1 9PX
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