The daughter of Oedipus returns with a vengeance in the upcoming Malthouse Theatre production of Antigone.
The Greek Tragedy was written by Sophocles around 441 BCE where, according to director Adena Jacobs, Sophocles depicts a society failing to govern itself, a society which eradicates everything it deems threatening. “It represses, denies and casts aside people and ideas which do not align with the status quo. There is a pervading sense of soullessness and a lack of empathy for others.”
The production was originally going to be directed by outgoing Malthouse Artistic Director Marion Potts but when Potts became unable to direct, the Malthouse asked Jacobs to come on board as director.
“The creative team and core cast was already locked in, so it is an unusual starting point for me as a director, but I am ignited by the challenge.”
Jacobs is obsessed by the Greeks, and for her Antigone (Chronologically, the third of the three Theban plays) is one of the most striking figures in the canon.
“She is the daughter of Oedipus, a young girl who has witnessed and experienced immense shame, suffering and grief at a young age. In a world stripped of humanity, she represents the humane. In fighting for the rights of the dead, in holding up the corpse, so to speak, she exposes what no one else wants to see.”
“Antigone is someone who refuses her circumstances, she will not abide by the ideology which is imposed upon her, she is extreme, without limits and inextricably bound to the dead. She operates according to a divine, unseen law.”
The Malthouse version is adapted by scholar and artist Dr. Jane Montgomery Griffiths. As well as her academic status (She is currently Director of Monash Uni’s Centre for Theatre and Performance) , Montgomery Griffiths is also an actor and theatre practitioner. Jacobs and Montgomery Griffiths have collaborated multiple times, in both acting and writing capacities, and so share a common language.
“One of our starting point for this adaptation is – how can we stage Greek Tragedy today? How do we contend with the gods and the chorus in an indifferent world? How do we understand the gender politics?”
“Jane brings her depth of knowledge as a classicist and also an actor’s instinct for language, poetry and image. This adaptation of Antigone is a very stripped back, brutal and highly charged text, which leaves a lot of space for the visual and aural elements of the production. There’s a lot to still be resolved in the rehearsal room, which is thrilling. Although the language will drive the rhythm of the production, the body is central.”
With a number of sound acting credits already under her belt, rising star Emily Milledge takes on the richly complex Antigone. A graduate of 16rh street Actors Studio Milledge lists Carrie: The Musical, The Good Person of Szechuan , La Cage Aux Folles, Frankenstein and Room of regret as some of her achievements to date.
Director Jacobs says of Milledge: “Emily has a unique capacity as an actor to embody deep ambiguity and mystery, whilst remaining open and present with an audience. She brings a fierce intelligence a wildness to her performances. Her Antigone will be completely unique.”
Montgomery Griffiths says the work is “… a translation of Sophocles’ original in all senses of the word. I started with a faithful translation but then moved to a theatrical world that translates the themes for our contemporary culture.”
Jacobs describes the work as sitting “… in a kind of nightmarish present.” The challenge is to “…transpose a classic into a modern context without reducing it, or veering into literalness.”
Jacobs was recently appointed as one of two Resident Directors at Belvoir (the other, Anne-Louise Sarks ) and is the Artistic Director of Fraught Outfit – she was Director-in-Residence at Malthouse in 2012. Her stage adaption of Ingmar Bergman’s Persona won great acclaim last year and will tour to Belvoir and Malthouse later this year. Jacobs has trained with the SITI Company in New York and is a member of the Lincoln Center Directors Lab.
Antigone promises to be a poetic and high impact event which lays bare the rift between personal and political ideologies.
August 21 – September 13