Elissaios Vgenopoulos: “Antigone – The conscience in the mills of power or as it was called… soldout”

Elissaios Vgenopoulos: “Antigone – The conscience in the mills of power or as it was called… soldout”
Elissaios Vgenopoulos: “Antigone – The conscience in the mills of power or as it was called… soldout”

In front of the seventh gate Eteocles and Polyneices fall dead in the fratricidal war. Creon orders the burial of Eteocles and forbids the burial of Polyneices accusing him of betraying his country. He prepares a feast in which the victory will be celebrated and the new anax confirmed. Antigone, unlike Ismene, defies Creon’s laws and buries her dead brother according to the will of the gods.

The gathering of all the issues that preoccupy ancient Greek thought centered on man, his needs, his weaknesses, conscience, dignity, the social, the moral, the purposes and pursuits of the individual, are found in Sophocles’ Antigone.

The tragedy of Antigone is a survey of the democratic society, in which the individual demands the vindication of his personality. The attitude of everyone in such a society has consequences for the rest, the decisions of the individual do not only concern himself but also his surroundings.

Creon, now king of Thebes, orders Polyneices not to be buried, since he attacked his homeland. Antigone buries her brother as was her duty. Creon orders her to be buried alive for her disobedience. Creon’s son, Aemon, in love with Antigone tries to find a solution, without succeeding. Antigone kills herself and Haemon also dies in her arms, Creon’s wife, unable to bear the loss of her children, commits suicide and Creon, unable to bear the terrible consequences of his terrible decisions, repentantly looks for a way to disappear from this world.

Accumulate as much wealth as you want,

get as much power as you desire…

Joy; do you have joy?

The rest are not even a shadow of smoke.

(Translated by George Blanas)

Sophocles does not create an evil hero, an authoritarian king, a bloodthirsty tyrant Creon and a chaste sister Antigone, and from the conflict of absolute evil with absolute good emerge the action, the climax and the resolution. Everything is more complex, Creon is the legal authority and in the Athenian Republic there is a legal authority. Democracy is expressed by the authority but also by the people. When there is no harmony between the authority and the people, somewhere the thing goes awry, something like this would also happen in the Athenian Republic, about which Thucydides writes that “it was made because of me a democracy, and by the work of the first man an authority.” Creon has duties and obligations he must defend justice and laws. Polyneices attacks his homeland with a foreign army. Creon’s dilemma is whether to apply the law of the state or the unwritten law of the people.

Antigone will listen to the voice of her conscience, she will bury her brother ready to pay any price. He is the only given character of the work. The other heroes are formed as the play progresses. Antigone is convinced from the beginning of her right, unyielding in her duty, without any compromise she sometimes even flirts with death.

Creon, democratic in style, but narrow-minded and cruel in the application of laws, expresses the crisis of Athenian democracy.

Antigone is a great work that is eternally relevant because the problem of man’s consciousness in the face of Democracy, which becomes “the principle of the first man”, is one of the problems that plague modern societies and our time.

On the topic of power management and the human factor before the performance in Epidaurus, the director Cesaris Grauzinis underlines that “In his time, Creon is the new democratic concept, while Antigone represents the old aristocracy and its values ​​that the Athenian democracy is trying to overcome. With great mastery, Sophocles shatters stereotypes, illuminates the contradictions of the democratic state and underlines the catalytic role of the human factor. Ancient tragedy still fascinates us precisely because it does not simplify the world like symbols, there is no black and white. Instead it shows how complex, unpredictable and contradictory and interesting life is. That’s why I believe that every new generation must search again and find their own Antigone and their own Creon”.

But we didn’t see these anywhere in the show. From the first moment, the director follows the fragile, sensitive stride of Antigone in the role with wide wings of the thymic, towards eternal duty, brotherly love and predetermined destiny. Elli Tringua portrays Antigone with interiority and then with strength. Her attitude is not determined by any caprice or whim, she believes deeply in what she does so deeply that she has nothing to die for, there are lines and moments when the heroine falls in love with the charon, this exciting feeling sometimes reaches the belly of Epidaurus.

The director puts Creon in the role of the evil leader who tries to impose himself by shouting, of the insensitive fellow man who shows no mercy, of the capricious and obsessive ruler who is only interested in the imposition of order and obedience to the insecurities of the new ruler and the unruly authority of. Vassilis Bispikis leans like a predator on Antigone like an executioner with shouts and roars, he wants to impose what is just and right, without measure, without prudence, without persuasion. when Creon was already conversing with his annihilation and destruction. A wave of aggressive naturalism, unrestrained paternalism and extroverted cynicism engulfed his interpretation.

Ierokles Michaelidis, in the role of the leader of his dance, defended himself with all his might, leader of a dance, who after what he lived through, even more than what is fair and right, needs normality and calmness. In the role of the guard Kostas Koronaios breathed life into the show with his comedic touch, Stratis Hatjistamatiou found a way to give substance to the young lovelorn and impulsive Aimons, who although he believes and loves his father will get into a conflict that has no turning back.

During the performance we do not feel the constant contradictions of the dance, which sometimes praises the leader, sometimes extols the bravery of Antigone, sometimes sings and sometimes mourns the evil that is coming, sometimes indignant at the inhumane decisions of the authorities and sometimes listless and indecisive he goes into his shell and is lost in silence.

Antigone is a work that one can grasp very hard and say something new. It is neither Philoctetes nor Aedas that many viewers may not know well, well the case, Antigone like the Iliad and the Odyssey is in the DNA of the Greek, because he has been taught her, he has watched her in a performance, probably more than once, he has seen it in its film version. With tricks, findings, unconnected ideas, it makes no sense to set up a show. So to dare to mess with Antigone, one must have something new, complete, clear and absolutely solid to say, which time and the need to express it, the it is galvanized by the belief that it does not get a reprieve and must be said, heard, “secured”.

The impressive attendance of the audience on both nights in Epidaurus led to a double sellout, exceeding 18,000 spectators, an achievement that has not been repeated for at least a decade at the Argoliko Theater, but can attendance and sellouts be an end in themselves?

The show suffers from pacing, tension and pulse, despite some interesting ideas, likable moments, good performances and admirable individual efforts. Mainly, however, Antigone by Cesaris Grauzinis, suffers from some overall conception, a clear framework and a central axis. Everything happens on a stage without depth, density and harmony, everything happens on the basis and dimensions of a long-winded, useless and soaring realism. We are not shocked by the evil that comes upon us, we are not disturbed by the enormous dilemmas of those who have to make the decisions. We don’t feel the revulsion as two young people are crushed. The fear, the gloom, the anxiety, for the decisions and actions of the heroes never reaches the viewers, but as Jean-Paul Sartre said, “Only in our decisions are we important” and if these are lost in the blur and ambiguity, under the constant shouting, the immeasurable extroversion and the uncontrollable noise, there remains the memory of another older performance or even the school readings to treat us.


The article is in Greek

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