Saturday 3 February 2018

AntigoneX - Midsumma Festival review

Based on the Greek tragedy of Antigone and Creon, AntigoneX takes this story and turns it inside out and upside down with its queer perspective. Presented as part of the Midsumma Festival, AntigoneX is a somewhat surreal look at queerness through identity, gender and art that draws you into its world but then not quite sure what to do with it.

Written and co-directed by Zachary Dunbar has created a very text-heavy show and the various plot threads all zoom past with barely time for one to catch their breath. While the story is based on Creon and Antigone, there are references to other classic tragedies like Medea and also contemporary pop culture with 'fake news' and Taylor Mac getting a mention. While Dunbar has wisely included a synopsis in the program, there are still moments where as an audience member you wish he had slowed things down a little to give the audience an opportunity to absorb everything that is happening on stage and maybe if there were not so many stories being told simultaneously it would be more audience friendly.

However, the entire cast does an impressive job with their performances. Louisa Wall in particular captures your attention from the second she appears. Wearing a dress made of garbage bags that Jeanne Little would be proud of, it is virtually impossible to take your eyes off Wall, even as she sits towards the side of the stage watching as the rest of the story unfolds.

The Chorus of Bondi Beach Boys (Connor Leach, Leigh Scully, Patrick Livesey, Jim Coulson and Jonathan Graffam) are also brilliant in their identical swimsuits and swimming caps as they bicker about aphorisms and ponder what it will be like to die. The five actors share great chemistry and it's clear to see how in tune they are with each other for the entire show.

Nicholas Moloney's lighting design is simple yet effective in supporting the text, illuminating The Chorus as they stand frozen in the background of scenes, and then creating nightmarish tension with his deep red lights during Antigone's dream. Similarly, costume and set designer Nathan Burmeister works in support of the production, ensuring that while everything is visually eye-catching, it doesn't detract our attention from attempting to follow the story. Director Kate Maudlin uses the stage wisely to differentiate between each narrative while giving the actors plenty of room to move.

With great work by a talented cast, AntigoneX is still an entertaining show to watch that will have you thinking about what queer identity is. The show proclaims that this is "the queerest tragedy you'll ever see", and while it may be correct with that statement, a clearer focus on what stories it wants to tell would make this a much stronger piece.

Venue: Theatreworks, 14 Acland St, St Kilda 
Season: Until 4 February April | 7:30pm
Tickets: $35 Full | $25 Conc 
Bookings: Midsumma Festival

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