- Lucy Ribchester
- 21 February 2020
Solène Weinachter gives a masterclass in storytelling, in Scottish Dance Theatre's compelling one-woman reinvention of Sophocles' classical tragedy
Though it is through printed text that most Greek tragedy survives, Solène Weinachter reminds us near the start of this one-woman dance theatre reimagining of Antigone that the genre is 'full of bodies'. And though it would at first seem hers is the only one on stage, she is quick to point out that ours make up the play too – indeed ours are the only ones left at the end.
Dead bodies, Weinachter tells us, being the predominant way bodies in Greek tragedy end up. We should not, therefore, be complacent about our complicity in this exploration of resistance, duty and populist fever.
Sophocles' play sees its protagonist sentenced to the cruellest of deaths, by internment, after disobeying the king's order to leave alone the corpse of her brother, whom he has decreed be left to rot in the sun. Meanwhile the 'interrupted' element of SDT's new version (co-created by artistic director Joan Clevillé, Weinachter and dramaturg Ella Hickson) comes in moments where Weinachter stops the narrative to tell us about her relationship to the play, or offer commentary on the collective experience, making us all breathe and sigh as one, or whipping us up into mob fervour after a political speech.
Weinachter evokes that other great classical work, Metamorphoses, as she slips and slides between characters, between narrative and abstract textures, embodying not only human personas but physical ideas of pressure and oppression, pulling her spine taut, gnarling and spiking her limbs. She takes on the physicality of her own violent words, flinching as she talks about how Polynices' body will be desiccated, or balancing on the tipping point of a chair to demonstrate Antigone's defiance to the king.
The theatrical devices are also clever – a drawn out breath conjures up the power of a ruler, an echo microphone evokes a Greek chorus from a single voice, and live-looping creates a chilling pack of dogs.
Clevillé has spoken in interviews about the work's inspiration being the Catalan independence movement and various worldwide uprisings of political defiance and resistance, but while he asks urgent questions, it would be hard to glean these threads from the performance alone. Nevertheless this is a tour de force in storytelling, and its compelling pulse makes a two-and-a-half-thousand year old play feel extraordinarily relevant.
Scottish Dance Theatre: Antigone, Interrupted, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, until Sat 22 Feb, and touring.