Antigone, Interrupted

Traverse, Edinburgh

Mary Brennan

four stars

it looks, and feels, as if there is no escape - either for Antigone, or for performer Solène Weinachter - because we, the audience, have encircled the playing area and are within touching distance of the action. On this occasion, Weinachter’s compellingly visceral solo has a kindred shadow: BSL interpreter Yvonne Strain is also in the circle, her signing of the intermittent spoken text a visible echo of Antigone’s self-sacrificial resolve and Weinachter’s holistic immersion in the conflict between conscientious objector and despotic state.

The basis for the piece - Joan Clevillé’s first choreography as the new artistic director of Scottish Dance Theatre - is Greek tragedy. However Sophocles’ narrative is swirled through with new writing that connects Antigone’s defiance of a tyrant with those who, in our own times, take a stand for democracy. Playing different and opposing characters, humorously adding in personal asides, her French accent lending its own musicality to Luke Sutherland’s sound-scapes, Weinachter not only relates this story - she puts harrowing flesh on its bones. Her dancer’s body becomes a living conduit for the inner turmoils that beset the young Antigone, limbs arcing and crumpling in grief and despair before - shoulders back, head high - she embraces non-compliance with her uncle, King Creon’s dictats, honours her dead brother by burying his corpse and is entombed alive. There is a remarkable chameleon-like quality to Weinachter’s dance, an ability to transmit complex thoughts and emotions through nuances of movement - indeed, she has just won the Critics’ Circle National Dance Award for Outstanding Female Performance (modern) in a Lost Dog production. Her previous collaborations with Cleville have established a true rapport between them, a mutual trust and regard that willingly takes risks in order to give depth and meaning to a challenging work like Antigone, Interrupted. With atmospheric mood shifts in the lighting (by Emma Jones) and an eerie, looping Chorus courtesy of Sutherland, this piece is a wonderfully bold beginning to Cleville’s leadership of SDT.