WHAT else would be a fitting first performance at Bradfield College’s newly-reopened Greek ampitheatre than the production which first graced its stage in 1890?
Sophocles’ tragic tale of Antigone will mark the re-opening of the theatre following its closure for £1.3million renovation works completed in March this year. The restoration, funded entirely by donations to the co-educational school, have seen the removal of a replica Greek ‘temple’ as well as the introduction of a viewing platform where visitors are afforded an aerial view of the entire theatre.
New handrails have been installed and some of the arena seats, which were cut out of a disused chalkpit in 1888, have been renovated.
It is a deliberate choice of director and head of drama Julia Crossley to return to the first Greek production staged at the theatre, created in the likeness of a 15,000-seater ampitheatre in Epidaurus in Greece.
She said: “It is completely faithful to the traditional story of Antigone. We wanted to be as authentic as possible because it is the first play we did in Greek. We have kept to the original performance conditions as much as possible.
“It is very unusual to see a Greek play done in a very authentic way. We are trying to keep it as true to the original as we can, definitely in terms of the language and how it is delivered.”
The 24 principal players and 50 chorus members will all perform in ancient Greek, as the play was written. The production will have “surtitles”, similar to audio described performances, where a translation of the speech is relayed to the audience via an LED display.
Borne out of the unwittingly incestuous union of Oedipus and Jocasta, Antigone defies her uncle, Creon, who has taken control of Thebes following the aftermath of her brothers’ fight to the death over the city. Creon orders one body to be left outside the city gates while the other brother is given a full military burial.
Standing up for what she believes to be right, Antigone buries her brother anyway, in direct violation of Creon’s law and is sentenced to death. Unable to carry out the sentence himself, Creon condemns Antigone to die of starvation, imprisoned in a cave. This, despite the knowledge that his own son Haimon is in love with his niece.
The play will be accompanied by music composed especially for this production by Ruth Frost.
As well as performing for audiences here in England, the cast will travel to Epidaurus in July to put on the play as part of an annual play festival in the Greek town. It is the first time a school will take to the stage at the festival, which is a celebration of Greek tragedies.
l Tickets for the show, at 7pm on June 20, 21, 25 and 26, with matinées on June 22 and 24, are free. To reserve one call reception on 0118 964 4500 or email greek firstname.lastname@example.org l Audiences are encouraged to bring a picnic to enjoy before the play.