I saw the performance of Antigone at the Belvoir Theatre last week. It is based on The Burial at Thebes, an adaptation of Sophocles’ Theban Plays by Seamus Heaney. Although the play is well written, the performance was disappointing, as the interpretation by the director fell far short of expectations. Set in an Australian community hall, it failed to reflect the dramatic cadences and choruses of ancient Greek theatre in any way at all. Nor did it allow the actors, especially Deborah Mailman, who played Antigone, to realise their acting potential.

Nevertheless, I was still interested in the play from the point of view of themes, and by the similarities with Shakespeare’s King Lear. Antigone in the second of the Theban plays, is the courageous and faithful daughter of the blind Oedipus, whom she accompanies into banishment, acting as his guide up until the very moment of his death. She now remains loyal to her slain traitor brother, disobeying the King’s orders and insisting on the rights of her brother to be buried, which leads to her death. Cordelia, Lear’s daughter, shows similar qualities of strength and loyalty in relation to her father in Shakespeare’s play. It led me to wonder whether the great Bard had been influenced by the Greek playwright. Antigone’s strength and courage in the face of threats to her life were the lasting impression at the end of this great tragedy.

This was a week for strong women. It was announced that Quentin Bryce was to be the next Governor-General of Australia, and Hilary Clinton continued her campaign to try and gain Democratic nomination for presidency of the United States.

But to get back to Deborah Mailman. She also played the part of Cordelia in an interesting interpretation by John Bell some years ago, in which the theme of incest was strongly suggested by the characterisation, and by an emphasis on certain aspects of the text. I thoroughly enjoyed the performance and found the interpretation believable and Mailman’s acting superb.

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