A Greek play written a few millennia ago can still be spectacularly relevant today.
Playwright Elena Carapetis brings the first heroine of western drama raging into the 21st century with a caleidoscopic take on Sophocles’ Antigone, showing at South Australia’s Odeon Theatre from May 27 to June 11.
Carapetis says her adaptation of the tragedy is a “personal and political” response to the Ancient story.
“Antigone was the first person in western theatre to say ‘no’ to a king and she was a 16-year-old girl. She was silenced and killed in the story contained within the classic Sophoclean text,” Carapetis says.
“We are experiencing a time when the voices of young people are still being silenced, but they continue to endure and speak up when they see wrong or injustice. People like Greta Thunberg, Malala Yousafzai to Grace Tame – these girls to me embody the spirit of Antigone.”
Sophocles’ story dates back to 441 BCE, and there have been many adaptations in the centuries since – but what appealed to the Australian of Greek – Cypriot heritage was how the patriarchal structures and the political status quo in Antigone is relevant to the modern world.
“Much of the analysis of the recent election results have attributed the outgoing government’s attitude towards women as the issue that brought them down. Like when Creon didn’t listen to Antigone.
“But I think it went further than that. Given the swing towards the Greens it seems that the urgency of action on climate change was a driving factor too. Then there was the issue of affordable housing, the broken aged care system, the disparity of funding between public and private schools, the rejection of the Uluru Statement From the Heart and something has to give,” Carapetis tells The Greek Herald.
“There is power in the collective voice of the people and it is folly not to listen. The young are driving this voice. They are angry and they demand better. We need to keep listening to the young because they have their own wisdom.”
The production which will premiere tomorrow also marks the directorial debut of resident director Anthony Nicola, 23, for whom Elena Carapetis speaks fondly of.
“I have known Anthony since he was a boy; he did work experience with me when my first play The Good Son was being rehearsed. He was with us for a week in the rehearsal room and though he was barely 15, he had a deep understanding of theatre normally found in seasoned professionals,” says Carapetis.
“It has been my absolute privilege to watch him grow through these years; to support him going to drama school to train as a director, to hold his heart close as he discovered his identity, to enjoy his company, conversation and fierce intelligence. In turn he has held my hand too, in both my personal and professional life.
“He is a fellow Greek Cypriot, a cherished arts colleague and a kindred spirit. He is my chosen family and this experience with him has been one of the great joys of my life. I am beyond proud of him.”
Artistic Director Mitchell Butel says Antigone dares to shake the very foundations of theatre itself.
“In this shake-up of one of the greatest works in the theatrical canon, playwright Elena Carapetis is tearing down the house of convention with a knowing wink. Audiences are in for quite a ride.”
Antigone is showing at the Odeon Theatre in Norwood, South Australia from May 27 to June 11.