Bulandra / Antigone: A show-force about human masks and what is behind them

The show “Antigone”, signed by the Greek director Stathis Livathinos at the Bulandra Theater, is a story about injustice, immorality, power and obedience, but also about the perennial essence of the theater in changing times.

The online premiere, on the Smart Radio platform, will take place on September 15. The show will be recorded and edited after the director’s cut, and can be viewed on www.smartradio.ro in the pay per view section.

The show is the first in a series of productions that the Bulandra Theater will distribute within the Home Theater concept, a project that aims to continue and diversify the theatrical offer that the institution has made available to the public in the months when access to theaters was restricted.

The tragedy written by Sophocles around 441 BC, which amazes even today with its terrible topicality (as if humanity has not evolved much from the moral, political and social dilemmas of over 2000 years ago…), is one of the only 7 of his pieces have survived to the present day. One of the apocryphal stories told after Sophocles’ death was that he had died trying to recite a very long phrase from Antigone without stopping to breathe.

The Antigone staged at the Bulandra Theater by Stathis Livathinos is not only a show of substance and with many strong interpretations, but also probably one of our first attempts to integrate into the stage world of this absolute symbol of the current pandemic, the protective mask. The masks worn by the actors here really made sense, and created not only a sense of strange connection with the audience (also “masked”) but also perhaps a sense of the show that otherwise would not have been visible: what masks the man wears, when and takes them out, why, and what does he look like then?…

Greek director Stathis Livathinos trained at the Russian Academy of Theater Arts in Moscow and has collaborated over time with the most important theaters in Greece. He was the artistic director of the Experimental Stage of the National Theater of Greece, an institution where he later held (2015-2019) the position of artistic director. Livathinos is said to have brought important innovations to modern Greek theater, which is not at all easy in a culture that practically invented European theater. In fact, the former Harvard professor said he was interested in bringing to the forefront the universal, eternally human meanings of ancient Greek theater, from which he staged several shows (including a famous Homer’s Iliad).

Antigone is the result of a masterclass held by Livathinos with actors from the Bulandra Theater; of which those selected for the staging of this show were Alexandra Fasolă (Antigona), Anca Androne / Silvana Negruțiu (Ismena), Cornel Scripcaru (Creon), Andreea Bibiri (Tiresias), Alin State (Hemon), Ana Ioana Macaria (Euridice), Adrian Ciobanu (The Guard), Lucian Ifrim (Messenger 1) and Maria Veronica Vârlan (Messenger 2). 10 actors in a coagulated and dynamic directorial conception, with well-dosed crescendos and exciting expressive scores. A show that has many chances to “pass the new scene”, ie the screen, in the conditions of the filmed / online theater. During the rehearsals, the director spoke about the “multiple facets of the human being” that Sophocles outlined in this tragedy. And, indeed, the staging at the Bulandra Theater is neither unilateral nor monotonous; the characters are deeply human, so complex, sometimes with some contradictory character traits – but what man is not, in fact? Antigone is the archetypal heroine, but she also has sparkles of pride and stubbornness, Creon is undoubtedly egotistical and blinded by power, but she also impresses with moments of humanity, sensitivity or even humor. How much energy and how many expressive nuances can be born and explode on a theater stage with extremely little decoration (only a few “multipurpose” seats) and with actors who (a tempora, a mores) are forced by the reality outside the stage to include it in the stage wearing protective masks. The directorial and acting ingenuity were intertwined from this perspective as well, incorporating in the story in an organic, credible way, in some places even apparently necessary the use of the necessary protective masks due to the pandemic we are going through.

The ancient story begins already full of tragedy. Oedipus had committed suicide after learning that he had married his own mother and become his father’s murderer, and his two sons (Eteole and Polynices) had faced each other in the Theban War fighting on opposite sides, and had also died; only their sisters Antigone and Ismene had survived. Their uncle, the despotic Creon, the leader of Thebes, had decided that Eteocles (who had fought on his side) should be buried with honor, but the body of his brother, the rebel Polynices, should be left unburied, prey to animals and public contempt. Antigone defies Creon’s will and manages to bury her brother in secret. When he finds out that his will has been violated, Creon becomes an explosion of anger, hatred and blind desire for revenge that will not stop until the tragedy becomes even greater and puts him on his knees.

Cornel Scripcaru plays a role of strength and endurance in Creon. The despot passes almost imperceptibly and yet palpably from the philosophy of a generous leader, balanced and devoted to the good of the people to a tyrant deeply rooted in his madness, climbing more and more to its peak, from where he collapses with the tragic multiple outcome. its orbits of egocentrism and vanity. The delicate, intense, energetic Alexandra Fasolă creates an Antigone that is both a superhuman force and a vulnerable humanity. In it, the fragility and courage of the quintessential female heroine, who opposes a fantastic energy to Creon’s arrogant and misogynistic tyranny, are overwhelmingly intertwined. Even in the calm speech of the one who knows the gods on her side, or when she still trembles in the face of terrible and terribly unjust fate, this Antigone remains real and assumed, intense but not exacerbated, and always vibrant. Hemon (Alin State), the son of Creon and Antigone’s fiancé, begins somewhat awkwardly, submissively to his ruling father, but the things he believes in, the principles that animate him, make him transform from a subject to a de facto leader, in the moral authority that opposes the legal but immoral authority of his father. There is fear, there is regret in the way his attitude of defying Creon increases, but there is also courage and commitment. Seeing this ancient character, on a modern stage inevitably influenced by off-stage reality, you can’t help but think that you would want Hemon in our public forums, in civic speeches that denounce abuses of power (whatever they may be , or she).

Andreea Bibiri does not deny her fame and creates here a Tiresias, the blind prophet, with a magnetism that gives shivers. The old man denounces Creon’s corruption and immorality and foretells misfortunes as payment for his iniquity. He is perhaps the most chameleon-like of the characters built in this show, simultaneously at the extremes: the almost decrepit fragility of old age but also the imposing force of the one who speaks the truth. It is impressive how much the contorted body can transmit on a few chairs of the actress and her rusty, hissing, overwhelming voice. All the characters are well defined and supported during the show, but among the secondary ones is the remarkable guard (Adrian Ciobanu). He moves agilely along the thin line between drama, tragicomedy and comedy, and has many moments when he is simply savory, both chameleon-like and sincere, now humble and almost immediately with a twinge of defiance, and all the time with his energy up.

Maria Miu and Nina Brumușilă are the two well-known names that signify the scenography, which is simple, atmospheric and percussive: on a background in the shades of a tragic sunset, a few chairs and then an earthen pit create the relief of human turmoil with magnitude. The seats are a throne for the king and a scaffold for the victims, a public forum from which the choir or magical place is expressed from which the trembling Tiresias foretells cruelly. As we know, Creon does not bow his head until he loses his son (who commits suicide next to the body of his girlfriend Antigone) but also his wife. Ingeniousness often lies in the greatest simplicity, and the Creon overthrown by the consequences of his own moral decay is eloquently placed in an earthen pit which is the image of a definitive physical, moral and human kneeling.

It is impressive on the one hand that the pandemic infiltrated the director’s decisions and on stage, but the way the Greek director drew the lines of force in this show seems to emphasize the astonishing topicality of many of the story’s problems: what happens when the laws are immoral and become from the protection of people a threat to them, what are the consequences of the seizure of power by those who should use it for the common good, which is the strength of the individual who rebels against an unjust order, and especially how the lights intertwine and the shadows of every man.

13.08.2020, Enescu Aky Cristina «Bulandra / Antigone: A show-force about human masks and what is behind them», www.ziarulmetropolis.ro


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