23
Feb
12

Too Late! (Antigone) Contest #2

Too Late! (Antigone) Contest #2

Powerhouse Theatre

MOTUS (Italy)

 

 

Billed as an “intensely physical performance by one of Italy’s most adventurous companies famed for its take-no-prisoners theatrical style,” I couldn’t help but remember something that those who have travelled extensively usually mention upon their return.  “There’s good and bad and… interesting theatre everywhere,” they say. Let’s call Too Late (Antigone) Contest #2 interesting theatre. There is something sacred about sharing the space in which a work so intense and challenging happens and there is something slightly bemusing too. I may well be the only person in the entire western world who doesn’t love this particular piece of touring contemporary theatre.

 

Once we get past the title, which implies that one might like to have a certain level of understanding about the original ancient Greek story, which inspired Sophocles to write the play upon which Bertolt Brecht based his version in 1947, we enter a dark, open space within the Powerhouse theatre; a configuration I’ve not seen before. The audience is a typical festival crowd (yes, there’s such a thing) of newbies and hard-core theatre types, including performers from some of the other festival productions. A long, narrow strip of garish, greenish light delineates the performance space (the audience is seated on both sides of it) and two actors, one at either end, pace and sit and stand and stretch and prepare – for what seems like an eternity (Brecht’s 1977 version had the company of actors on stage throughout, in full view of the audience, forever fixing their make up and preparing for their scenes) – for a series of mini battles, which represent the recent political upheaval in Italy as much as they do the unsavoury events of the original tale. These battles intermixed with commentary from the actors as actors; make up the non-narrative structure of the show.

 

The original shocking story, briefly, for the uninitiated and for those who surfed rather than attend their Ancient History lectures (fair enough), goes like this: Antigone, the daughter of Oedipus and his mother Jocasta (yes, you read that right), desires to bury properly, according to tradition, her brother, deemed traitorous by the king, Creon. Antigone elects to bury her brother’s body herself and she is captured and punished for breaking the law. In typical ancient history feminine I’m-as-empowered-as-a-prostitute-with-a-pimp response, she hangs herself. Haimon, the son of Creon who loves her, kills himself after finding her body.

 

 

At one point, one of the actors makes a reference in English, to the English surtitles; a wry dig at contemporary theatre that, unfortunately, didn’t go down so well with this particular audience, perhaps because there were those nodding their heads in agreement with the sentiment, “I hate contemporary theatre!”

 

The two actors, Silvia Calderoni and Vladimir Aleksic, play with power and status from the outset, becoming dogs, on all fours, barking and growling at each other before they become more obvious characters from ancient or current politics. They are highly physical, though not frighteningly physical; the Brechtian devices ensure that we remember they are actors in a play and, though relaxed, they are poised, ready for anything (and we’ve seen riskier moves in other productions). The androgynous-looking Calderoni (think Aaron Carter half dressed as Lisbeth Salander) literally throws herself into an early scene and onto Aleksic’s shoulders, beating him and kicking to bring down the low-set lighting rig above her. The most disturbing tactic, though used once too often, is a hug of the extreme (choking, suffocating) kind, which, when coupled with the amplified gurgled, strangulated sounds of the suddenly fragile Calderoni clasped beneath (for what seems a rather unreasonable length of time) the taller, broader figure of Aleksic, is quite chilling.

 

 

We know that a Brechtian piece particularly, and much of our contemporary theatre is designed to dissatisfy, prompting us to question the bigger issues in our dull little lives, to recognise the contradictions of living and to remember that even the good folk suffer. We see it and we know it to be true and yet it seems unfamiliar. It’s okay then, to leave the space feeling uncomfortable. That’s the idea.

 

Too Late! (Antigone) Contest #2 is not everyone’s cup of tea but if you see it’s coming to a theatre near you, I say, go. While it wasn’t my favourite thing on the menu, it was the Green Eggs and Ham show. And I know you think you don’t like green eggs and ham. But try it and you may, I say. (Who am I to tell you that the Brioche is better?) Be prepared to sit and concentrate for 55 minutes and observe from the outside in; this is an interesting show, guaranteed to get you thinking – and talking – long after you’ve left the venue.

 

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