Similar to Shakespeare, Sophocles’ Theban plays based upon Ancient Greek Mythology have been adapted countlessly: so what makes Lulu Raczka’s adaptation any different? Raczka takes the original and strips it down to a two-hander focussed on the two teenage girls at the heart of the play: Antigone and her sister Ismene.
Upon entrance to the New Diorama, Lizzy Leech’s set is striking: a golden circular pit filled with soil. The cast of two playfully work with this set; and combined with the lighting and sound design, pivotal moments are augmented by its presence.
The first scene of the production is void of dialogue, instead building up the sisterly bond through mime and a comical dance to Destiny’s Child’s Survivor. Annabel Baldwin (Antigone) and Rachel Hosker (Ismene) have a natural chemistry, making their performances come across as honest and natural, as their characters explore their different coming of age stories.
Baldwin plays Antigone with fervour, whilst flawlessly showcasing the growth of her character. By her denouement, Antigone has gone from a young girl talking about drinking in bars and sleeping with boys, to a woman who stands up for her beliefs and suffers the consequences of her actions.
Hosker’s Ismene initially is the antithesis of Antigone; giggly and nervous, but very much in awe of her older sister. First, Hosker plays off of Baldwin, but once Antigone makes her sacrifice she takes centre stage. In her final monologue, Hosker comes into her element, seamlessly moving between grief stricken reflection and happiness about the family she has created.
The chemistry between the two actors elevates Raczka’s script from the page to naturalistic excellence on stage. The combination of the dialogue and portrayals makes these characters feel timeless, rather than simply modern. However, there are some points where the realistic repetitions can become irritating. The irritation felt does bring to question whether this is intentional by Raczka though, as it emanates the same frustrations all teenagers have – especially whilst in heated discussions.
Overall, this production is a captivating watch, augmenting the original themes in the Sophocle’s play to create an anthem to sisterhood and grief. Holy What Theatre company is definitely one to watch in the future for more of the same exciting, innovative and enduring theatre.