by Jean Anouilh
Ian Hoare has acted in more than twenty productions for the Tower. In 2016 he made his debut as a
Tower director with Hindle Wakes, and he followed that with An Enemy of the People last year.
The director writes :
Jean Anouilh's play is based on one of the truly great stories of all time. It is a myth that is deep in the heart of western culture, and has been endlessly retold. In the words of Hanif Kureishi :
"Antigone is a particularly modern heroine. She is a rebel, a refusenik, a feminist... a suicide perhaps, certainly a martyr, and without doubt a difficult, insistent person... She has blazed through the centuries to remain one of the great characters of all literature."
Antigone is the daughter of Oedipus, the doomed King of Thebes. Her tragedy - as told by Sophocles - begins after her two brothers, Eteocles and Polynices, have killed each other in a civil war over the succession to Oedipus's throne. The new king, Antigone's uncle Creon, orders Polynices' body to be left to rot where it fell because he had rebelled against the established regime. But Antigone refuses to accept Creon's edict : she sneaks out at night and performs token burial rights on her brother, even though she knows the punishment for this disobedience is death.
The plot throws up a wide range of themes. The courageous defiance of patriarchal authority by a woman is perhaps the most obvious, but there is also the tension between youth and maturity, the individual and society, idealism and pragmatism - and more.
So it is a wonderfully timeless tale; but Jean Anouilh's version of the story is a brilliant piece of drama in its own right. Widely regarded as one of the greatest French plays of the 20th Century, it was first performed in 1944 in Nazi-occupied Paris, and the heroine is often seen as a martyr of the French resistance.
The play stays close to the Sophocles in many respects, but Anouilh brings it compellingly alive for present-day audiences in a number of ways. In particular, he puts Antigone, rather than Creon, at the centre of the drama. But he does not make it a political melodrama with Creon as the villain : the new king is a complex, ambiguous character.
In fact, the entire play is threaded with psychological and moral subtleties and every character is three-dimensional, making it a joy to perform. The play is also made highly accessible by the use of conversational language and everyday modern references; and it employs 20th Century theatrical techniques, such as having the Chorus speak directly and informally to the audience. Anouilh also dispenses with the usual divisions into acts and scenes - it is one stream of action, without an interval.
The author makes it clear in the script that the play is set "without historical or geographical implications". This production will respect that by aiming to create a sense of place that is simultaneously modern and ancient.
The characters are :
Playing ages are approximate, but the relative ages of the characters will need to be right.
Please note that if you are cast, you will be asked to do some preparatory text work.
Antigone is a huge, multi-faceted role. She is written as 20 years old, though at some points she seems even younger. She is described as thin and dark, but we may be able to work round that.
Creon (40s-60s) is an equally exciting and complex part. "Vigorous" but "tired", the Chorus tells us. "He is playing a difficult game: he has become a leader of men"; and sometimes he wonders whether it's not pointless. The central confrontation between Creon and Antigone takes up about a third of the play.
The Chorus/Prologue is another important role, which could be played by a woman or a man, any age. It requires, above all, a good storyteller.
Ismene (20s-early 30s) : Antigone's older sister, is also interesting. She starts by trying to persuade Antigone to give in to Creon, but ends up wanting to join her. Ismene is written as more conventionally beautiful than Antigone, with blonde curls, but do not regard this as immutable
Haemon (20s-early 30s) is Creon's son and Antigone's fiancé. He struggles to understand her, is appalled by his father's attitude to her and comes to a tragic end. Loves "dancing and sport ... happiness and success".
The Nurse (50s - 70s) : "kind, dignified, loving." She brought up the two girls, and has a lovely scene at the start of the play, which establishes Antigone's youthfulness and spontaneous nature.
The Messenger (any age or gender) has a long, key speech at the end of the play.
The three Guards (any age) keep watch over Polynices' body. One of these, Jonas, has a beautiful scene alone with Antigone just before she dies. He is "the last face she sees".
There is also a young Page who doesn't have many lines but has a revealing exchange with Creon at the end.
Finally, Creon's wife Eurydice ("elderly") is introduced on stage at the start, but she doesn't appear again and she has nothing to say.
Please read the play before auditioning - a copy is available from the Tower Office or from the Director.
We are looking for the following :
If you are interested in any of these roles or in being involved in the show in any other capacity please contact the Director, Ian Hoare.