- Antigone on the Contemporary World Stage edited by Erin B. Mee and Helene P. Foley
The ongoing importance of the Antigone story in the world theatre is clearly indicated by the simultaneous appearance (from Oxford) of two separate anthologies on this subject. The two overlap only in their basic subject, otherwise they complement each other very nicely. S.E. Wilmer and Audrone Žukauskaité’s Interrogating Antigone in Postmodern Philosophy and Criticism contains essays discussing the use of the play and the myth in contemporary psychoanalytic theory and in feminist criticism. The work under review here takes up much more specifically theatrical concerns, analyzing the remarkable variety of ways the myth has been reinterpreted recently in theatres around the world and how these reinterpretations provide insight into and comment upon current social and political conditions in the surrounding cultures.
After a helpful introduction essay by the editors on the dynamics and challenges of adaptation, and another by Edith Hall on the original Greek production and its cultural placement, Antigone on the Contemporary World Stage moves on to an impressive variety of reports on adaptations in an impressive variety of world locations and cultures. The two best-known modern adaptations, those of Anouilh and Brecht, are briefly discussed in the introduction. Those explored in the following essays are more contemporary and largely from parts of the world still sadly neglected by traditional European and American theatre scholars. Griselda Gambaro’s Antígona Furiosa from Argentina is one of the better-known, recent South American plays, but Moira Fradinger discusses it along with two other versions of this myth, which have been especially popular in that country. From the Caribbean comes Haitian Félix Morisseau-Leroy’s Antigòn an Kreyòl, a landmark work in that language.
Asian adaptations are well represented, with Mee reporting on one in Manipur, North India; Dongshin Chang on another from Tainan, Southern Taiwan; Cobina Gillitt on a version in Yogyakarta, Indonesia; and Mae J. Smethurst on another iteration in Tokyo, Japan. The Arab world is unusually well represented with reports on a modern Syrian adaptation by Edward Ziter and an adaptation in Istanbul, Turkey, by Serap Erincin, as well as a general survey of modern Antigones in Egypt by the prominent Egyptian critic Nehad Selaiha. There is only a single example from Sub-Saharan Africa—Sylvain Bemba’s Black Wedding Candles for Blessed Antigone—but its international connections make it a striking example of the contemporary global theatre, a piece conceived in the Congo, written in France, premiered in New York, and then revived in 1996 in Burkina Faso.
Europe and America are not neglected, but here too the adaptations selected for discussion are both illuminating and not widely known. Six essays deal with contemporary Europe and four with North America. From Europe, Fiona McIntosh uses the projected new version of Antigone by Frank McGuinness as an opening to consider the particular interest of Irish dramatists in this play since the 1980s and its connection to the national heroine, Deirdre. Gonda Van Steen returns us to the 2003 staging in Greece of Aris Alexandrou’s banned and long-forgotten Antigone of 1951. Martina Treu writes of one of the most unusual and moving recent site-specific Antigone productions, by Gianluca Guidotti and Enrica Sangiovanni in 2006, in a cemetery on the defensive line the Germans built across Northern Italy in the 1940s. Marc Robinson examines the role of Andrzej Wajda’s Antigone as an underground protest drama in 1984 during Poland’s period of martial law. Hana Worthen discusses the circumstances of the only postwar staging of this play, at the Finnish National Theatre in 1968. Lorna Hardwick examines [End Page 183] another cross-cultural Antigone in her consideration of the reception of a Georgian production of Anouilh’s French version by the audience of the 2001 Edinburgh Festival.
The North American entries follow the commendable orientation of the book in looking outside traditional and familiar areas of investigation, most notably in...