SUM­MER THEATRE RE­TURNS TO SA­MAANS PARK

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL -

It is ru­moured that politi­cians have a re­luc­tant re­spect for artists be­cause they too pos­sess the power to per­suade and pro­voke, prov­ing only too of­ten that the pen is might­ier than the sword. Per­haps Sopho­cles, that wise old Greek, was con­tem­plat­ing this very the­sis in 441BC when he penned his im­mor­tal play, ANTIGONE (an-ti-ga-nee).

Two and a half mil­len­nia later, this clas­sic piece of theatre con­tin­ues to be pro­duced and per­formed around the world, en­gag­ing ac­tors and au­di­ences with its eter­nal lessons about the abuse of power and the in­evitable pay­load of per­sonal pain.

Be­ing the very cut and thrust of theatre, pain takes cen­tre stage in ANTIGONE, of­fer­ing an en­light­en­ing ex­plo­ration of the phys­i­cal, moral and emo­tional reper­cus­sions that fol­low uni­lat­eral edicts. In his mas­ter­piece - wish it were so here - Sopho­cles demon­strates that re­spon­si­bil­ity and ac­count­abil­ity fall heav­ily, on the hold­ers of high of­fice, as well as on the or­di­nary cit­i­zens of Thebes, de­mon­strat­ing that in­evitably, we all suf­fer the slings and ar­rows of state­spon­sored stu­pid­ity.

In sum­mary, ANTIGONE the play, named for its name­sake hero­ine, is the leg­endary story of one brave young woman who con­sciously de­fies the bas­tions of male ego and au­thor­ity. In so do­ing, she con­tra­venes es­tab­lished or­der and risks her own life. But she also moves us, both by the strength of her con­vic­tion, and the logic of her de­fence, which rests on nat­u­ral law, emo­tional hon­esty and fil­ial obli­ga­tion.

How­ever dis­rup­tive to the sta­tus quo, that strength com­mands re­spect, and as her ul­ti­mate jurors, both our in­tel­lect and our pas­sion tempt us to side with her against the uni­lat­eral rul­ings of vain and vac­u­ous men. Antigone’s ad­mirable self­less­ness stirs our own spirit of re­sis­tance. But it also calls us to make dif­fi­cult choices: be­tween bru­tal jus­tice and sloth­ful peace. Dif­fi­cult, be­cause we know too well that evil oft’ thrives in the shadow of both ex­tremes.

Hardly a su­per­fi­cial sub­ject for any so­ci­ety, the need to limit po­lit­i­cal power is par­tic­u­larly poignant for us. Here we lie, a small is­land state, tee­ter­ing on the brink of sus­tain­abil­ity, chang­ing elec­toral bound­aries, play­ing at con­sti­tu­tional re­form, and re­hears­ing for yet another gen­eral elec­tion; all that with so lit­tle prom­ise of real im­prove­ment in our own demo­cratic in­fra­struc­ture.

Antigone - played by Sh­er­nel Justin - as­serts that in such times, con­science and the laws of god and na­ture take prece­dence over the un­just laws of states and men. It is an as­ser­tion strongly op­posed by her sis­ter Is­mene - played by Shan­ice Evariste – who ar­gues for the rule of law and the main­te­nance of so­cial or­der. In­evitably, each must de­cide where to stand … or fall.

De­spite or be­cause of its tragic fi­nale, ANTIGONE re­mains a pow­er­ful piece of theatre, made more so in the hands of vet­eran Di­rec­tor, Alvin Hip­polyte, who also plays the despotic Creon. Ac­tor, Lec­turer and Pro­fes­sor of Theatre at City Univer­sity of New York (CUNY), his most re­cent foray into lo­cal theatre was in 2010, when he di­rected ‘For Col­ored Girls’, the cel­e­brated work of Ntozake Shange about the op­pres­sion of women in a sex­ist and racist so­ci­ety.

No stranger to op­pres­sion and tragedy in his adopted coun­try, Di­rec­tor Hip­polyte is lend­ing his con­sid­er­able ex­pe­ri­ence to a dy­namic cast of both young and ma­ture ac­tors who show great prom­ise with ma­te­rial of such nu­ance and com­plex­ity.

In this sub­stan­tial un­der­tak­ing, Mr Hip­polyte is sup­ported by the in­de­fati­ga­ble Land­mark team. Clearly at home in the world of theatre, Land­mark Events is cred­ited with suc­cess­ful stag­ings of many an­nual and one-off events, in­clud­ing HOT Cou­ture, the Charles Cadet Cul­tural Icon Con­cert, and sev­eral Wal­cott plays, in­clud­ing Pan­tomime (2014) and O Starry Starry Night (2013), both spon­sored by First Na­tional Bank.

ANTIGONE opens with a cham­pagne gala at 8 p.m. sharp on Wed­nes­day, Septem­ber 16, 2015. Tick­ets are a re­spectable $85, all-in­clu­sive. Cu­ri­ous and com­mit­ted theatre-go­ers are en­cour­aged and ex­pected to com­mune, con­sume and comin­gle.

For those on a less elas­tic bud­get, the play con­tin­ues Thurs­day 17th through Satur­day 19th with ad­vance tick­ets priced at a mod­est $45.

In a so­ci­ety where good theatre is in­creas­ingly rare, the wis­dom of Sopho­cles and the artistry of Hip­polyte will hope­fully per­suade and pro­voke us, not un­like the in­flu­en­tial artists cited in the open­ing para­graph above. Thank­fully, if those two bards can be faulted on any one point, it would be for hop­ing that men of power, when ex­posed to good theatre, might even­tu­ally re­turn to their senses. Alas, the truth is history.

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