Antigone @ King's Theatre
Can a famous film star automatically perform successfully on the stage? In the case of Juliette Binoche in Sophocles’ Antigone, sadly not. Despite the renowned Ivo van Hove's direction, and being an iconic play of enormous power, this modern dress production is hugely disappointing.
Antigone must bury her brother Polyneikes while Kreon, the king, has decreed that as a traitor, he must be left to the birds and dogs: obedience to the state or to humane values, a moral conflict that resonates to this day. It needs exceptional actors. Binoche lacks gravitas. Her voice is thin. She gabbles or is inaudible. Later she shouts, mistakenly thinking that conveys emotion. The only time she expresses pathos is when she silently washes her brother’s corpse.
The low-key tone counterbalances the gruesome plot, and allows some pleasing comedy from Obi Abili, but too often makes for impassive acting. The text translated by US poet Anne Carson is banal (‘Why are you so nasty?’). Thank goodness for Patrick O’Kane who is a credible, cynical Kreon, though often inaudible. Only Finbar Lynch as Teiresias is superb and other parts are strong: Kathryn Pogson as Eurydike and Kirsty Bushell as Ismene.
The simplicity of Jan Versweyveld’s bare set dominated by a vast sun is perfect for such a stark play but the light is so glaring it casts the actors’ faces into shade. Projections on the back wall of deserts are effective but others are distracting or kitsch. And why the soundtrack? It’s irritating, and the track at the end ludicrous.
Antigone, Kings Theatre, 'til 22 Aug 7.30pm (except Mondays)
Sat 15 and 22 Aug 2.30pm Prices vary.