(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 3/7.)
Team Juliette Binoche with Ivo van Hove, director of A View from the Bridge, in Greek tragedy and the result is bound to be a prestige show: one that will tour Europe, including the Edinburgh festival, and the United States. But the result, in Anne Carson’s fine new translation, is much more than a snob hit: it’s a production that combines a sombre aesthetic beauty with a sense of the ambivalence at the heart of Sophocles’s play.
In lesser hands, the work can easily seem a moral melodrama: a study of a virtuous heroine who defies an implacable tyrant, Kreon, in her determination to bury her dead brother, Polyneikes. But here Kreon makes a plausible political case, one the Greeks would certainly have understood, in arguing that loyalty to the city takes precedence over private need. Equally, Antigone seems right to claim that respect for the dead is an unalterable divine law. Sophocles presents us with a portrait of mutual intransigence and, if Antigone suffers death for her obduracy, Kreon’s fate is even more destructively harrowing.