from The God of Small Things by Arundathi Roy
Antigone who provokes the gods, defies death and questions the established order? Or Antigone who rejects the normal rules of society and refuses to make any concessions in the name of life? Cocteau/Anouilh, 1922/1944, two different versions of the myth. The one is short, powerful and in the heroic style of the ancient tragedy; the other is more human, smacks of disillusionment and betrays a desperate existentialism.
In Les Antigones/2 Antigone tg STAN juxtaposes the two versions: the possibilities contained in a script, the chance aspects of a choice and the way history misleads mankind.
The creation of Les Antigones in Toulouse is one of those STAN productions which is produced in another country and in another language. In Bergen (Norway) Tg STAN made The Answering Machine (Finn Iunker), in Oakland One 2 Life (based on the letters of George L. Jackson) and in Lisbon Point Blank (Anton Chekhov). All three of those productions were in English. With Les Antigones , Tg STAN joins forces with Théâtre Garonne and sets off on its first adventure in French.
Antigone means "against the progeny" in Greek, Ismene is the name of one of Thebes' two rivers, the literal translation of Creon is "sovereign", Haemon's name is a reference to "haima" or blood in Greek, and Eurydice ("wide in her judgment") is one of the titles of the Queen of the Dead
According to tradition there are several gates to the Underworld. One of them is in the vicinity of Athens, another near Cape Tenare, at the southernmost tip of the Peloponnese.
The gods' will may be read in the way a sacrificial offering catches fire, in the flight of birds, the rustling of the leaves of a sacred tree, or in the viscera of a sacrificial animal. In some cases the augur merely observes phenomena, in others he interprets his observations.
The daughters of Cadmus, the founder of Thebes, were the most beautiful girls in town; after all, Aphrodite was their grandmother. Zeus was smitten by Semele, whom he came to woo at the palace in Thebes. His ways of appearing and disappearing seemed so mysterious to Semele that she became convinced he was a god. After badgering him with questions she finally made him admit he was indeed Zeus. To verify this statement she was carrying his child she decided to urge him to show his true aspect. One night she asked him to grant her one of her wishes. Zeus immediately agreed, even swearing by the Styx, a river in the Underworld this was the most solemn oath a god could swear. Semele revealed her wish: "Show yourself to me in your true divine aspect." Zeus begged her to request something else, as this was too dangerous for her, but Semele insisted. Zeus left, most distressed, because he knew what the future had in store for the young woman. He reappeared in all his splendour as the first among gods, cloaked in clouds, thunderbolts and lightning. As soon as he appeared his glory consumed Semele who died giving prematurely birth to her son. But the wooden pillars in the rooms sprouted buds and were covered in ivy that shielded the baby against the withering heat. Zeus slashed his own thigh, took the child and put it inside his flesh, closing the cut with Semele's golden needles. The child grew there until he was born. His mother had been a mortal, but he was a god, having inherited his father's divine powers. His name was Dionysus.
King Acrisius of Argos, one of the oldest cities in the Peloponnese, imprisoned his only daughter Danae in a bronze tower (or, in another version, in a buried bronze cell) because an oracle had told the king that he would be killed by his grandson. But Acrisius was hoping in vain that he could keep Danae from birthing any children. Zeus, moved by Danae's beauty and grief, entered her jail in the form of a golden shower and begot a son, Perseus. Acrisius, angry for having been duped and once again deeply afraid, had his daughter and her newborn son sealed inside a wooden chest and thrown in the sea. Protected by Zeus they rode the waves until they were cast ashore on the small island of Seriphos, where King Polydectes gave them a warm welcome. After several years and a score of perilous adventures involving Medusa and Andromeda Perseus returned to Argos. His grandfather, at first mortally afraid of him, soon was completely won over by the young man's disarming manner. Later Perseus inadvertently killed his grandfather while throwing a discus.
At the end of the Sixties the inmates of the infamous prison on Robben Island decided to produce 'Antigone' at their Christmas performance. In the context of the struggle against apartheid the play gained a special meaning. The prisoner who proposed himself for the part of Creon was called Nelson Rolihlala Mandela
Among the gods of Mount Olympus, Aphrodite, goddess of love, is Zeus' daughter and Hephaestus' wife. She had liaisons with other gods as well as with mortals. With Ares, son of Zeus and Hera, she had a son who was called Eros.
Hades, son of Cronus, is the god of the Underworld. He is also the master of Earth's natural resources, and more specifically of precious metals. Therefore he was also called Plouton ("Giver of riches").
Through his father Everes the famous seer Tiresias was a descendant of the race of armed men born from the dragon's teeth sown by Cadmus, the founder of Thebes. Tiresias' mother was the nymph Cariclo, one of Athena's companions. How Tiresias was blinded first version: one day Athena was bathing in the Hippocrene Fountain on Mount Helicon. Tiresias, who was hunting in the mountains, saw her by chance. The goddess struck him blind, but Cariclo pleaded for her son. Finally Athena granted Tiresias the gift of second sight. How Tiresias was blinded second version: one day Tiresias saw two snakes coupling. He slid between them and was instantly changed into a woman. Seven years later, seeing two other entwined snakes, he repeated his action and became a man again. Zeus and Hera were embroiled in a never-ending quarrel about who man or woman takes the greatest pleasure in lovemaking. They asked Tiresias to tell them once and for all, as he had experienced the life of both sexes. Tiresias answered that a woman's pleasure is nine times greater than a man's. Enraged, Hera took away his eyesight while Zeus, pleased with his answer, gave him the gift of clairvoyance and the ability to live seven consecutive human lives. It is told that Tiresias died of weariness and old age when the people of Thebes, defeated by the Epigones, went into exile on his recommendation.
Two hours of simple but exquisite theatre. A masterly example of group acting.
They may get straight to the point and pay great attention to their material, but they nevertheless bring an inspiring tale about following ones heart. When intelligence and humour become partners in culture, great things are afoot. This production provides food for thought about the repertoire, brings familiar yet refreshing material and is thought out in the minutest detail.
The four actors manage to make an asset of their accents, as every syllable changes into a musical note.
They play Cocteau and even more so Anouilh without any preconceptions, as if these were virgin texts, untouched, eager to acquire a sense; they reject all ostentation, pretence and embellishments. No director, no set, no costumes. No draperies. Everything becomes artless, unsteady, tenuous. Everything begins anew, everything becomes true. By breaking down the mechanisms of theatrical illusion they bring unheard-of accents to the tragedy. The actor reveals himself in the front line, and if he's slightly overweight, if he's a little too thin, if he limps because of an accident, that is all we see. He strips himself of all ornaments, he steps down from his ancient pedestal. He is disarmed, he is free.
The conventions of tragedy and of the popular press come together to stir up emotions. But this is only made possible by the actors and their effortless vitality, always ready to forge ahead.
In front of a long table that will later become a stage, the actress steps forward with a slight smile and announces what will take place tonight. There is no suspense. Everyone knows the story. And then, while the light draws golden streaks on the ground, unfolds the inexorable destiny of a stubborn young girl in a miniskirt and trainers, with a blond braid and athletic legs. All the actors are true to themselves, truly magnificent, while carrying us to the height of emotion with a purity never achieved before. A tragedy was rarely of such beauty.
by and with Natali Broods, Jolente De Keersmaeker, Tine Embrechts, Tiago Rodrigues and Frank Vercruyssen
set and lighting design Thomas Walgrave
costumes An D'Huys
many thanks to Laurence dHondt
production tg STAN
coproduction Théâtre Garonne (Toulouse), Festival dAutomne (Paris) and Théâtre de la Bastille (Paris)
premiere 15 May 2001, Théâtre Garonne, Toulouse (FR)
premiere English version 1 April 2003, Kulturhuset, Stockholm (S)