Lung Ha's Theatre impresses with an excellent, stripped-back adaptation of Sophocles' Theban tragedy

Lung Ha’s Theatre Company has gone from strength to strength in recent years, notching up acclaimed adaptations of everything from Chekhov to Aldous Huxley and Jules Verne. The company’s latest outing returns to the origins of European Theatre and Sophocles’ Theban tragedy, reimagined in a beautifully distilled version by playwright Adrian Osmond that cuts to the heart of the play’s themes.

The story of a dictator going against the mood and wishes of his own people and reaping the consequences has never been so urgent, and when Sean Hay’s tyrannical Creon defends his intransigence in refusing to give the rebel Polyneices a proper burial, saying ‘I must not be seen to weaken’, the contemporary resonance is chilling. While Maria Oller’s production is not specifically tailored to recent events, at the point where the community turns on Creon, you can’t help but recall Muammar Gaddafi’s baffled, terrified face in his final moments.

Design elements, from Becky Minto’s honey-coloured set to Kat Smith’s costumes and the lighting design by Simon Wilkinson, complement the sparse power of the text, while the incidental music, composed by Kenneth Dempster and performed onstage by musicians from the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland, infuses the action with a strong atmosphere of foreboding.

Meanwhile, the Lung Ha’s ensemble, most of whom have learning difficulties, have rarely been better, with Nicola Tuxworth radiating real fire and defiance in the lead role while Douglas Briglman also brings a quiet intensity to the role of Haemon. The chorus does a fine job of needling the principals while the most emotive scenes, including the opening battle and Antigone’s imprisonment are accomplished through simple but very moving choreography by Janis Claxton.

Antigone, Platform, Glasgow, Wed 21 Mar. Seen at Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Fri 16 Mar.

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