Queensland Theatre will present a retelling of Sophocles' 'Antigone' as reimagined and adapted by Matilda Award winner, Merlynn Tong, and directed by Travis Dowling in his Queensland mainstage directorial debut.
In a year that has seen Queensland Theatre showcase a multitude of compelling works that centre around challenging the status quo, 'Antigone' is a perfect note to wrap the season up on.
'Antigone' tells the story of ancient Thebes in the aftermath of a civil war between two brothers. As they lie dead on the battlefield, one of the brothers is hailed as a war hero, the other condemned as a traitor. As a dystopian oligarchical state arises under the new leadership of Creon, the deceased brothers' younger sister, Antigone, challenges the leader and the state for the right to give her cast-out brother a dignified burial and mourning period.
Director Travis Dowling talks about the ancient Greek tragedy and his vision of it for a modern audience: “It's a debate about human rights, family law, and the right to bury Antigone's brother. First, the state law pushes that 'this body will not be buried because this person was a war criminal' [and it unfolds in numerous points of conflict from there on out] So, it's theatre at its best – what we're doing is presenting this argument between human rights and man-made law that's still going on in our society today.”
The Greek classics are often reinvented for the modern stage, their archaic original messages still able to be translated into countless new meanings. Travis' production of 'Antigone' is no different. This performance is allegorical for a number of detrimental current affairs. Dealing heavily with themes of climate change and the importance of listening to our youth.
“What Merlynn Tong has done, is kept the classicism of the original work, but written it in a timeless way and has propelled the argument forward, without reducing it down to one thing. It allows us to look at this ancient argument and think about the things that are happening in our world in the present. The echoes are Emma Gonzales and Greta Thunberg – we're looking at these amazing young activists that are trying to change the world and stand up for what they believe in against a generation of older politicians going 'we're not going to listen to you because you're young'.
“Their voices are super important. . . When we have a 16-year-old young woman who has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, standing up for something that's so important to our society and people are demonising her for it – it's crazy that we have been having the same kind of argument as a global society for 2,400 years at least!”
Audiences can expect to experience a tidal wave of emotion and an all-too-familiar sense of inescapability from the pressing issues explored in 'Antigone'. Travis cites his ultimate objective within his production as being a vessel to mirror our current society and illustrate the dire nature of current leadership tactics.
“My objective is to propel this argument from 2,400 years ago forward, and for audiences to question why we are still having these kind of debates as a society. Why haven't we changed? Are we listening to the next generation of voices coming through? We want audiences to question what leadership is now and how are they treating the issues around us.”
'Antigone' plays Queensland Theatre's Bille Brown Theatre 26 October-16 November.