I saw a great production of Antigone at the National Theatre last night, starring Christopher Eccleston as Creon and Jodi Whittaker as Antigone.
The post-9/11 setting was clearly inspired by contemporary political cabinets and military offices, and the chorus consisted of civil servants, soldiers and journalists. At the beginning of the show Creon and his generals assembled around a TV set to watch the Theban war, replicating the famous image of Obama & co watching the attack on Bin Laden’s compound in the Situation Room.
As a whole, the show was really tight: the sharp direction created a fast, heightened pace, going straight to the play’s tough moral core without unnecessary melodrama. I guess we can safely say that director Polly Findlay (whose work I’d so enjoyed in the NT’s Paintframe double bills last year) is no longer up and coming: she’s well and truly landed.
Eccleston was extraordinary - articulate, humorous and totally compelling. His Creon was a man possessed with the righteousness of power, a Blairite fixation on the conviction that law must be enforced always and without mercy. His unwavering devotion to principle caused not only personal tragedy, but also the total trashing of justice; the final catharsis when he realised his great failure as a leader was thus all the more crushing. I really hope to see him do more stage work. He’d make a perfect Angelo in Measure for Measure.
(I sometimes miss the theatre so much. It’s so nice that after years when I couldn’t bear to walk into the dark space I now find it thrilling again.)