by Edward Villiers
A rebel, a leader, a peacemaker, a lover, and a mother: directing ‘Antigone 2017’ has rather been like living through the personalities of Antigone, Creon, Ismene, Haemon and Eurydice.
Firstly, I am a rebel. After studying Antigone as part of my Classical Civilisation AS, my Drama and Theatre Studies A Level, my undergraduate study of Greek Culture and Society, and now at honours level in my Ancient Greek Theatre module, it is a staple tradition in my education. But like Antigone, I have grown weary of tradition. In four years of study, I have experienced several interpretations of Antigone and all have been bound by predictable characterisations and uninspiring uses of the chorus. Initially, I was apprehensive to stray away from these stock interpretations. However, after Dr Bakola and I explored a variety of scholarship (notably Charles Segal) I was encouraged to transgress. An example of this includes my direction and creativity concerning the character Tiresias. Much to Holly Cowan’s delight I did not approach her with a stick-on beard and mens’ clothes in order to undertake the role, instead I presented her with a dress. Given that Tiresias provides the voice of reason to the misogynistic and tyrannical Creon, I believe much greater weight and intrigue is acquired when a female embodies this. Creon’s epiphany is far more dramatic and controversial as, he not only listens to advice for the first time but he listens to a woman. Moreover, I hope to have reinvigorated the role of the chorus. Usually restricted to minimal movement and portraying aged Theban citizens, I have adopted a more abstract approach. I have taken their introverted and innately Theban quality to the extreme and costumed them to portray part of the Theban walls. They are so representative of Thebes and so crucial to its foundations that they are appearing as the physical foundations themselves.
Secondly, I am a leader. Throw me into a popular lecture or one of many of the University of Warwick’s social events and it is a struggle to get me to stop talking (not that you have already gathered from one of the lengthiest director’s notes known to man). However, directing a cast and crew of over 39 and simultaneously commanding all of their attention is an entirely different task. Directing Antigone has taught me invaluable leadership and organisation skills, and the respect I have gained from each member of the cast and crew has been one of the most humbling experiences of the entire process. One of the most valuable lessons though, a lesson that Creon never quite learns throughout the entirety of today’s performance, is that you do not need to shout to gain response: listening to people works pretty well too.
I am a peacemaker, a lover and a mother. I began this project in March 2016 and after ten months of constant efforts, nurturing and perseverance it has become a huge part of my life that I have grown very attached to. It is not only the project itself that I have grown to love but also all the people: all of the Antigone family involved. Do not get me wrong, families fight (as you will see in the performance) and after a few no-shows at rehearsals and fluffed monologues, I had to parent the cast through our trickier moments. However, it is a role that I would not have swapped for the world. One moment that stands out for me is our setting of some of the final scenes. It was late in term and this play parent was feeling overworked and a little overwhelmed. I gave the cast a very short brief and then…magic. It is the only word I can use to describe it. Tears streaming down my face, the cast’s performance completely touched me. Not only because of their phenomenal acting, not because it was a moment of ‘I did it’, but because it was a moment of ‘we did it’. I hope that you’re able to experience a few of these magic moments tonight.