'Antigone' - Press Night Reviews

Christopher Eccleston as Creon, Jodie Whittaker as Antigone

The Guardian:
Antigone ****-
Christopher Eccleston's outstanding Creon becomes the play's tragic centre. He presents us with a charismatic leader steeped in patriarchal tradition and naively trusting in the invulnerability of power: confronted by Antigone and her sister Ismene, he mockingly observes "these women are neurotic", and when his son Haemon tries to warn him about shifting popular sympathy, he loftily dismisses "the opinions of people in the street". Eccleston's Creon is not evil but fatally in thrall, like many modern politicians, to the idea that authority is somehow inviolable. 

The Guardian:
[...] Antigone – review
Christopher Eccleston's Creon is terrific: a tyrant with a twitch: square in shoulder and jaw, but delivering his speeches with a choppy vigour that suggests anxiety as well as power. The real question he and the production raises is whether this play should be called not Antigone but Creon

The Telegraph:
Antigone, National Theatre ****-
[...] Christopher Eccleston's Creon is the modern, morally-ambivalent politician personified, full of bold conviction until he realises the implications of his dubious strategies.

He superbly captures the growing doubts and panic of the character, but just fails to plumb the depths of tragic despair at the end when he realises he has lost everything that matters and has become a moral void.

The New York Times:
Making a welcome return to the stage, Christopher Eccleston (an erstwhile "Doctor Who" on British television) brings to Creon a stony-faced, sternly spoken command whose granitic resolve crumbles in the face of the reprieve that comes only with death. Jodie Whittaker's Antigone, like Mr. Eccleston, speaks Don Taylor's extant version of the Greek original in her own regional English accent, a shrewd choice accentuating the degree to which these are men and women of the world we know, not remote emissaries from some accursed far-off land.

Antigone ****-
The keynote is Eccleston's channelling of Tony Blair. It's not an impersonation, but his precise, repetitive diction, mannered body language, cool unflappability and, above all, unshakeable belief in the rightness of his deeply unpopular cause – in this case executing his niece Antigone for defying the law by burying her traitorous brother Polynices – unerringly invokes one man's slippery spirit. It is a superb portrait and critique of the scariest sort of politician: one actually driven by ideology.

The Official London Theatre Guide:
Here King Creon, whom Cristopher [sic] Eccleston plays with the measured, unruffled calm of any modern leader, decrees that the cadaver of his treacherous nephew Polynices should be left to slowly rot and be scavenged upon as a lesson in obedience to the state. [...]

While Whittaker's emotion-led Antigone is more likeable than Eccleston's Creon – no-one likes a calm peddler of terror, do they? – his initial arguments are undoubtedly compelling. [...]

[...] it is still Eccleston's Creon who stretches the furthest, those dammed, constricted emotions finally bursting beyond his control as he is left with blood on his hands… and on his clothes… and on the walls…

Antigone ****-
Creon, played with understated, chilling authority and a Lancastrian accent by Christopher Eccleston, is keen to maintain control after a period of disastrous civil war.

Christopher Eccleston as Creon, Jodie Whittaker as Antigone

Financial Times:
Then Christopher Eccleston enters as Creon.

There is no diplomatic way of putting this: he is Tony Blair. This is nothing so crass as an impersonation, with all those strange, rigid hand gestures. But Eccleston's Creon is driven, like Blair, by a conviction that personal certainty can and should override any amount of popular opposition, and he is similarly unimpassioned in his delivery. [...]

In the final minutes, on receiving the news that his niece Antigone, his son Haemon (who was betrothed to her) and his wife Eurydice are all dead, he unexpectedly cries, "I am nothing!" in the ecstatic roar of the vindicated narcissist. This Creon is a tragic protagonist who fails to learn that it is not all about him.

[...] Eccleston plays Creon as part bureaucrat, part politician, starting out with the admirable ambition of creating a rule that is about the country, not the man (an antidote to the time of striving brought about by the very personal failings of the fallen king Oedipus); but in his determination to assert himself and his rule, he becomes detached from the very people he is supposed to represent, dismissing their concerns and beliefs in favour of his own flawed judgement. Eccleston beautifully captures the almost casual arrogance of the man, and his disintegration as the repercussions of his decision start to unravel his carefully constructed façade of victory.

The rolled-up shirt sleeves of Christopher Eccleston's Creon reminds one of Tony Blair; while an opening sequence recalls the assassination of Osama bin Laden.

Eccleston plays Creon as the consummate modern politician, initially almost reasonable in his absolute conviction that the law should be upheld at any cost. Yet if his Teflon demeanour seems spot-on for our morally ambivalent times, he fails to bring Creon's deeper  personal trajectory into focus.

The Stage Reviews:
Christopher Eccleston's Creon is an upright soldier, convinced that he must make an example of Antigone for the greater good and refusing to listen to pleas from his son, Haemon, who wishes to marry her. He is brutal in condemning Antigone to be executed by being buried alive and, in Findlay's version, exercising control of his son (a slight Luke Newberry) by physical bullying, but he never entirely loses his humanity. His lesson is hard-learned: when his son and wife both kill themselves, he knows he is to blame. A bloodied Eccleston shows him to be broken and distracted.

Christopher Eccleston's intense but measured performance as Creon dominates Polly Findlay's production of Antigone at the Olivier Theatre. [...] 
Eccleston is superb as the new leader whose self-belief and conviction is initially unshakeable. Looking a trifle uneasy in his blue suit, his gestures are precise, his enunciation careful and clear. He is man very aware of how is behavior and actions are perceived; it's a restrained, but potent portrayal, even if he seems unwilling to loosen his grip on his character's sense of propriety and control even at the very end when his hands are stained with the blood of his loved ones and he has lost everything.

London Evening Standard:
Antigone, National Theatre Olivier ****-
The leads, Christopher Eccleston and Jodie Whittaker, suggest the difficulties of reconciling the rule of law with moral duty, and the results are explosive. [...]

Always intense, Eccleston is at his best in a deeply charged scene with his scandalised son Haemon (Luke Newberry).

Antigone ****-
Christopher Eccleston – ex-star of TV's Dr Who – is the hard-nosed King Creon. In spite of his treatment of Antigone, he is more like a bureaucratic businessman than a really menacing, autocratic monarch. There's much of Obama and Blair in Mr Eccleston's performance, and given the subject matter, you can see why.

The Flintshire Chronicle:
Elizabeth Wood Bowyer, 15, said: "Antigone was fantastic. It was so interesting to see a legendary play in a modern setting. It really illuminated the connection between ancient and modern politics. The acting was awesome too – Christopher Eccleston was a veritable catacomb of brilliance."

Cast of Antigone

The London Times:
Antigone ****-
This 21st-century interpretation burns particularly hard into our age. Costume and scene remind us of what we know too well in the age of Saddam, Gaddafi and Assad, especially after this week's appalling news from Syria. It's not about togas and robes: superstitious, stubborn, paranoid tyrants whose word is death have suits and ties and CCTV and bustling modern offices, and look just like our own leaders … Eccleston's Creon is the most curious, ultimately gripping performance. At first a chunky crop-haired politico, he seems appropriately wooden and bereft of feeling. But as doubt of his own rightness assails him he warms into vulnerability and madness. In the ghastly triple denouement his "I am nothing! I want nothing! My last, simplest prayer!" rings chill round the great auditorium.

The Sunday London Times:
Christopher Eccleston, as Creon, seems particularly straitjacketed by a colourless interpretation. Dressed in white shirt, tie and grey trousers, he issues his brutal diktats from behind a desk in something like an underground ops room at the Pentagon, surrounded by a posse of paramilitaries.

Antigone ****-
Yet the production does not have to strain for relevance; it takes it as a given that this is a story about political (dis)order that is always going to speak to us. 
That is amplified in Christopher Eccleston's tense, intense performance as Creon, beautifully showing the cracks in his armour of certainty.

While minions bustle about on the 20th-century office set, hot desking between piles of paper, Creon (Christopher Eccleston) swaps his army uniform for a sober grey suit in preparation for the post-civil war clean-up campaign until Antigone arrives to challenge his authority and give her brother a decent burial.

The Arts Desk:
Antigone, National Theatre ***--
Eccleston understands this perfectly, dominating the stage by balancing the different public faces required of a politician, yet also being convincing as a family man and as an individual struggling with belief. He also cynically plays the terrorist card.

[...] Creon is accordingly played by a suited Christopher Ecclestone [sic], who is confronted by Jodie Whittaker as an angry young woman. [...] 
The real problem, though, is with Ecclestone's [sic] Creon. He observes many of the tics of a modern statesman, such as removing his jacket to stand arms akimbo while delivering slick speeches pleading political necessity. He is of course also right to reject Tiresias's claim that no one condemns a man who 'recognises his folly and changes'. Everybody knows such men are routinely reviled as shilly-shallying u-turners by political pundits – even if those same pundits also endorse u-turning as fully consultative, authentically pragmatic 'listening'. However, the more fundamental problem with Ecclestone's [sic] Creon is that he is a measured, mannered, distant figure, neither fish nor Führer, blowing neither hot nor cold.  

Seven Magazine:
Sophocles's tale is strong, bloody stuff and Eccleston has what ought to be a dominating role in Creon, the autocratic King of Thebes, who is intent on punishing Antigone (Jodie Whittaker) for the sins of her late brother who has been vanquished in war. 
Don Taylor's adaptation is, alas, set in the present day in what looks like an office somewhere in the north of England. Eccleston – who seems a lot shorter on stage than he does on screen – struts about it in shirtsleeves and eats his packed lunch at his desk. He put me in mind less of a bloody-thirsty tyrant than David Brent on a bad day.

Creon's defence of his rule is sent up so hammily by Christopher Eccleston that the National's audience tittered at the logic. But this is not Sophocles's point at all. He may, as an enlightened metropolitan Athenian, regard Thebes as a backward place full of retrograde and cruel customs, but he does give Creon an argument for the consistency of state power with a force that foreshadows Hegel's "insight into necessity". That is what makes the play both great and unsettling. 
Eccleston (who played Nicky in Our Friends in the North and one of the sundry Dr Whos) is an intriguing  stage presence, with all the mannerisms of a politician who doesn't quite believe his own logic, and thus says it more loudly.
Christopher Eccleston as Creon, Jodie Whittaker as Antigone

Woman & Home:
Christopher Eccleston is wonderfully understated as the hubristic king, while Jodie Whittaker gives a powerful performance as willful Antigone.

Polly Findlay's production of Sophocles' tragedy is set in a Cold War-era bunker, where women in suits pass folders to uniformed army officers; functionaries bend over reel-to-reel tape players; and the man in charge, Creon (Christopher Eccleston), confers with flunkies behind brown-smoked glass. [...] 
Keeping a cool distance from the blood and guts of the story seems to be part of Findlay's reading, or at least affects the way Creon is presented: Even as he confronts his own culpability in the death of his son and wife, Eccleston seems at an emotional remove from the action – his final action is to carelessly smear the blood from his hands onto a wall. Such an interpretation, however, runs against the text and rather negates the purpose of staging it in the first place.

Mail Online:
Dr Who gives Greek tragedy a timely twist ***--
Antigone, By Sophocles: Intense Ecclestone [sic] is the perfect fit ****-
In the Royal National Theatre's pacy new production of Antigone, Creon is played by Christopher Eccleston. He may be best known nationally for his brief stint as TV's Doctor Who but Mr Eccleston is a stage actor of stature.

He combines a rangy physical presence with a temple-twitching intensity.

One of his trademarks is an exaggerated precision in speech, his mouth almost doubling its movements as he delivers the words.

How well this suits Creon as he tussles with his intransigence and confronts the fate imposed on him by merciless gods.

A Younger Theatre:
Jodie Whitaker brings a raw edge and tenacity to Antigone that is often lacking in this character. However, Whitaker's performance stays on one level and never quite spills over with the passion that is required of her – often causing her to underplay the more dramatic moments. I also found Christopher Ecclestone's [sic] Creon to be much the same, something which meant that a rather lengthy dualogue between the two never seemed to reach its climax. 

Antigone ***-
Jodie Whittaker makes a stirring and defiant Antigone, standing up for the rights of humanity against temporal laws. If Christopher Eccleston (King Creon) lacks her natural authority, Jamie Ballard gives a wonderfully neurotic turn as the blind prophet Tiresias. This show grips like a fish hook.

City A.M.:
Eccleston plays the tragic king Creon, whose dogged insistence on upholding his principles against the weight of popular and moral opinion – a clash between relativism and objectivism with clear modern parallels – threatens to topple the entire state. But his hubris-driven descent into desperate self-preservation is never quite plausible and Eccleston too often looks a little lost.


norhythmthatsme said...

Thanks for putting it all in one place! I tried to post it all on my tumblr but I see I've missed quite a number of them. You guys are made of awesome! ^_^

Marianne said...

You are most welcome. We are always glad to be of service.