A review of the Mercury Theatre’s retelling of the classic Greek tragedy ‘Antigone’ as critiqued by Thea Baloch, Colchester Sixth Form College. What can we learn in today’s society from Antigone and who is the true victim inside the dual world of justice for the people and state?

We are stumbling out of a global pandemic, a time of loss and depravity, we ‘reside in a sea of rubble’ and ‘we have all lost ones we love’. Humanity takes their seats together to watch a classic Greek tragedy—adapted by Merlynn Tong—Ismene sings mournfully for her war-torn city.

Immediately we are drawn into the mentality of the people of Thebes, more specifically one who is fighting with her very existence to bury her brother Polynices, a tyrant.

Antigone in this retelling is shown to be the epitome, an activist, a hero of her people ‘Antigone wants everything or nothing’.

The beauty of Antigone which I have found through research into other adaptations of this play over time, is that it is timeless with the ability to mould to contemporary issues and temper. As Jean Anouilh so rightly examined: ’in approaching the myths of Ancient Greece to explore modern cries and dilemmas, [directors] have understood and recaptured the spirit of those myths better than did their 17th Century predecessors’. Critics have discussed that Creon should be the centre point of the play, not Antigone.

However, I feel that with this adaption Tong has captured the very essence of what we currently face in our society— centring on Creon in this piece would not have been suitable and merely created angst due to the associations we apply and the overarching sense of hopelessness humanity feels to those in power—‘My actions are honourable. Your laws are deplorable’ Antigone cried.

Despite this, the adaptation of Creon being a Queen in this version allows for the audience to have greater empathy for her actions— ’Antigone is right—but Creon is not wrong’ (Camus). Creon attempts to balance having stable and just leadership, yet she too becomes a tragic victim. This focus on Antigone and sisterhood following the horrific times we have all recently endured provides hope and enlightenment. One member of the audience quoted that the ‘contemporary change to a Queen added a new level of emotion’, however ‘it wasn’t sure what it wanted to be’.