Jean Anouilh’s retelling of Antigone was first performed at the Atelier Theatre in Paris towards the end of winter in 1944. Cast against the backdrop of Nazi occupied Paris, the play became a powerful metaphor for the French Resistance movement.
This month’s PACT production of Antigone is based on Anouilh’s version of the play. Although it is primarily in English, students from Blacktown Girls High School act as a French chorus – recalling the play’s original language.
According to Stephanie Bamgloose, she and her classmates were eager for the opportunity to participate in the production. “Our French chorus is made up of year eight and year nine girls split up into two groups,” she said.
“As the chorus, we are narrators,” said classmate Oana Joya. “But in a sense, we’re also the conscience of some characters. We get into their heads. We emphasise the importance of the play.”
The subject matter is undeniably tragic. But, for chorus-member Jasmine Singh, this is what makes the play interesting; it is a rebuke to the contemporary perception that stories should have happy endings.
“I think the play is very interesting because it gives a different perspective,” said Jasmine. “These days when you go watch Disney movies, there’s always a happy ending. This play is different in that respect. Sometimes the princess doesn’t get her happy ever after. I think I find that really, really interesting. I find that really mesmerising.”
There is an undeniably fatalistic streak in the play, despite the fact it was to become a rallying call to civil disobedience against Nazi occupation in France. Certainly, Antigone defies King Creon, her uncle, in order to provide her brother with a proper burial after he is arbitrarily named as a traitor and left to rot outside the city gates, even though she knows that she will be put to death. It is her destiny.
The students can see a great deal to admire in the ambiguous figure of Antigone.
“What I learned from Antigone was to be really brave – to stand up for what you believe in and always voice your opinions,” said Kajel Raina. “It’s encouragement for young women to be better.”
“Men aren’t the lead or the main role. It shows that women can be strong too.”