I can’t have been the only person to have imagined a modern adaptation of Sophocles’ ‘Antigone’ where Antigone is a BLM activist working against a dystopian ‘Trump’ style presidency?
Or maybe I am, and my A Level combination of Theatre Studies and Classical Civilisation is getting to me again…
After seeing Glenda Jackson in the excellent production of King Lear on the West End, I have once again become immersed in the theatre and acting. This is not a sensible way for my mind to wander. You see, the problem isn’t that I am an especially bad actress, the problem is that I’m not an overwhelmingly excellent one. When I put that pipe-dream to one side, all that I am left with is either script-writing, tech, music, or directing.
I like tech, I just find it hard to pay attention to what is happening onstage, it’s a lot of pressure for a really rather under-appreciated part, and I just don’t really want to. And I absolutely love music, but my talent is limited to singing in the choir and occasionally sawing away at my friends’ violins when they’re not looking. I failed my ABRSM Grade One singing, suffice to say, it might not be the best direction for me to extend my talents in.
Directing is plausible, as it gets credit, attention, and is very involved in theatre. The only problem is that it involves speaking to a very intimate crowd of people, trying to convey the nature of your dramatic ideologies in as simplistic a way as possible. Just the thought makes me feel uncomfortable, as an archetypal INFP, I am not one for really putting myself out there for criticism. Sometimes I cry at my homework marks, so I feel that being a director might stress me out more than it would make me happy. As a producer of my house play, I can testify that the process is both exhausting and exhilarating, a combination of words that I never thought I would associate with directing a group of eleven to fifteen-year-olds.
And finally, bringing me onto my idea for ‘Antigone’, scriptwriting. That should have been the obvious choice based on my talents, although I rarely write scripts. This idea though, it just stuck with me. I have not updated this blog since the election, and it will take more than a comparison to a tyrannical king for me to truly express my disappointment with the results. Nonetheless, I feel that Antigone is more relevant than ever in the light of the news.
It is a tragedy, yes, but one that has a deeper meaning. Antigone stood up for what she believed in, despite the fact that King Creon forbade it and marked the penalty as death. She knew what she was getting herself into but still followed through with her plan, and she managed to succeed. Against the odds, she delivered the rites to her brother and secured him safe passage to the underworld. As a modern reader, it can seem that she threw her life away over nothing, after all, her brother was dead so it wasn’t like he minded. On the other hand, to an ancient audience, this would have been the worst thing that could happen to a person’s body, as if they weren’t given their rights and buried then they would never rest and go to the underworld. In this way, Antigone saw it as a moral obligation for her to bury her brother, despite the danger to herself.
I suppose the lesson that we should take from ‘Antigone’ is that we should stand up for our beliefs, no matter what the state says is the right thing to do. When people can make a positive impact on the lives of other people then there will be some good in the world, no matter how dire the situation may seem. We should believe in our power to change the course of the future and take action, even if we don’t know if we’ll succeed.
Sometimes the way that the world seems to be going can seem quite worrying, and as a minor it is frustrating that my voice counts for very little. It’s easy for one to feel like a victim of the system, one of the many politically minded teenagers who hold many ideas but have no power to enact them. However, in my opinion the most important message in Sophocles’ play is not just that there was a girl who died because she wanted to bury her brother, it’s that there was a young woman who took her life into her own hands and not only buried him once, but twice, in clear defiance of the status quo. If a two-thousand-five-hundred year-old play can tell to stand up for our beliefs, then it is clear that it is a message that can last.
To quote Robert Bolton, ‘a belief is not merely an idea that the mind possesses, it’s an idea that possesses the mind’. Everyone believes in different things, and that is fine. It’s only when people attempt to force their own feelings onto us that there is a problem. If everyone was as peaceful and strong-minded as Antigone, then the world would be a much more harmonious place.
The change doesn’t start with everything else, the change starts with us.