Theatre review: universal appeal of tragic Greek drama

Burial at Thebes

Burial at Thebes - Credit: Archant

When the Abbey Theatre Studio is full, the atmosphere can be electrifying.

So it was a great shame to see it half empty on Saturday when the Company of Ten was staging the Seamus Heaney version of the Sophocles play Antigone, entitled The Burial at Thebes.

For this is a very good production and it would be fair to say that everyone involved puts their heart and soul into it. The Burial in Thebes deserves to be played out in front of a packed Studio.

It is surprising that the play was not better supported that night because the Almeida Theatre in London has been heralded for its decision to put on three Greek plays this year - and has been rewarded to date by sell-out audiences. Clearly there is no reluctance to enjoy Greek drama.

Company of Ten director Rosemary Goodman has opted to set the Heaney adaptation in the Greek Civil War from 1946-49 and like all good modifications it works because it illustrates that human nature never really changes.

The tale of King Cleon and the repercussions of his decision to put Antigone to death for burying her disgraced brother is a universal one - a story of power gone mad, revenge gone wrong and its awful consequences.

Mark Waghorn is the towering character in the play as Cleon - a man who walks headlong into a disaster far beyond anything he could ever have anticipated.

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He gives everything he has to the role and one particular scene with his son Haemon, played by Andrew Margerison, is completely riveting as the two go from being reasonable to coming to blows.

Abbe Waghorn takes the role of the doomed Antigone with Stephanie Jones as her less pugilistic sister Ismene - both step up to their parts convincingly.

Particularly impressive was the chorus and the way Rosemary opted not to have them all recite their lines in tandem. Each one had individual lines and it made several members stand out very effectively, notably Company of Ten veterans Rory Byrne and Dewi Williams.

The Burial at Thebes runs until this Saturday, October 17, and tickets are available at or call the box office on 01727 857861.