Arts & Culture

MANDALA THEATRE COMPANY’S ‘ANTIGONE’ AT THE OLD FIRE STATION, OXFORD. (PART OF THE ‘OFFBEAT’ FESTIVAL)

By Memela Cavanagh at

As the audience find their seats at Mandala Theatre’s recent show, Kanye West sets the scene. He raps, name checking Socrates and Plato. “Human beings in a mob, what’s a mob to a king? What’s a king to a god? What’s a god to a non-believer who doesn’t believe in anything? No sins as long as there’s permission and deception is the only felony… Tears on the Mausoleum floor, bloodstains on the coliseum doors.”

This production based on Roy Williams’ version of Antigone by Sophocles, is updated to a ‘modern gang culture’. Creo now ruler of Thebes, is a nightclub owner, he runs things. Daughters of Oedipus; Tig and her sister Esme, work at the club. Creo’s wife Eunice according to Tig was, “Nothing ‘til Creo blinged you up.” ’Who’s going to respect me if I don’t dead her?” Creo asks. His son Eamon plays the sax.

Mandala’s Antigone is slick, tight, mesmerisingly energetic and mighty. This is physical theatre. The cast said “To prepare ourselves we played dance-tag together for half an hour at a time.”

As the scenes change, the cast with their faces obscured, roll and flow across the stage, cartwheeling, striking poses in freeze-frame, running, dancing and throwing shapes to the music, and even to a guided relaxation recording.
The set is minimal, a few boxes reconfigured, sometimes stacked into a podium. The main focus is on the action, the actors in their shades of grey, red and black, with The Gods watching from above.

When the story begins, Tig and Esme’s brothers are dead following a civil war in Thebes or, as in this version, gunshot in the club and a man down. Creo decrees that the body of one brother be left exposed to the elements. Tig rebels, making Creo “Look like a bitch” she is captured on an Iphone saying ‘I don’t give a **** about the gods’.

Artistic director and Mandala founder Yasmin Sidhwa said “The gods represent digital age technology. In gang culture people are killing each other, is this something we want from our rulers? I believe human nature is fundamentally good.”
This was an extraordinary performance from a shining young cast and well worth keeping your eyes open for future productions from Mandala Theatre.

For more information about Mandala Theatre visit: http://www.mandalatheatre.co.uk/

Or to see what’s happening at Arts at the Old Fire Station visit: https://oldfirestation.org.uk/