The slides of dead soldiers watched by an unflinching Antigone, which opened David Levin's new version of Sophocles's timeless treatise on war, set out its store from the start.
Levin's stark, unflashy and contemporary take on the play may look out of time, but its message is clear. When Antigone, sentenced to death for burying her dead brother, rails at the new king Creon that "You are killing me before I have lived", she seems to be speaking for every wasted battlefield slaughter ticked off as collateral damage. She echoes, too, the conscience of a generation disillusioned with politicians. When the terminally self-deluded Creon mutters the immortal "There is no blood on our hands", the parallels are obvious.
Yet, despite the TV screens littering the stage, from which beam victory speeches from an empire builder on the comeback trail, there's an understatement to such flourishes. The Chorus are a suited elderly trio who look like a Mediterranean version of Last Of The Summer Wine, gossiping on street corners. The messenger who reports Antigone's misdemeanour is a squaddie in battle fatigues; Tiresias some sage-like old Left voice of reason. Antigone herself almost explodes with rage and frustration in Hannah Donaldson's gutsy professional debut.
Loading article content
Yet, while never feeling shoe-horned in, there's an even graver spiritual dimension to Levin's production. The sound of bees swarming in between scenes implies an altogether more biblical calamity than the human cost of Creon's spectacular error of judgment. When the house lights are switched on as the noise builds to a crescendo, Creon may finally be looking his responsibilities in the eye, but it's too little, too late.