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Published 6 March 2015

What’s it all about?

Some may say Antigone is about a woman, the grief she suffers for her dead brother who lies unburied on the battlefield, and the tirade of revenge she inflicts on the man who refuses his right to burial.

Others will say it’s about Juliette Binoche – the Academy Award-winning star of The English Patient and Chocolat – who makes her much anticipated return to the Barbican Theatre in the production.

For the rest, and possibly the vast majority, this is about director Ivo Van Hove, who has created quite a stir in Theatreland of late after knocking audiences socks off with his stripped down, smash-hit production of A View From The Bridge.

We wouldn’t argue with any of them.

Who’s in it?

Given what we’re already told you there are no prizes for guessing who takes the title role, nor are there any bonus points for how well she does it. Binoche shines – as she always does – as the desperate and fearless sibling, overcome with “a self-regarding rage”, who faces the prospect of death head-on.

Patrick O’Kane, swapping Irish pub drinker for Greek king following his UK Theatre Award-winning performance in Quietly, is a menacing Creon whose words and actions, even in his rare displays of pride and gratitude, feel worryingly sinister.

The rest of the cast play dual roles as their characters and the chorus, with a stand-out performance from Finbar Lynch who provides wise commentary but turns threatening as he asserts his power over Creon.

What should I look out for?

All the things that audiences loved about Van Hove’s A View From The Bridge that have made their way into his latest production: a single door in the middle of the stage, the regular tension-building beat of the sound design and the atmospheric staging that focuses on the performances rather than an all-singing, all-dancing set.

Plus all the added extras, including a stunning circular hole in the back wall, which transforms from crescent moon to blazing sun, the projections of the modern world that transform the blank backdrop and a wind machine that makes it a chilly first five minutes for Binoche’s Antigone and Kirsty Bushell’s Ismene.

In a nutshell?

Swapping Mark Strong for Juliette Binoche, Ivo Van Hove is back with another innovatively staged tragedy at the Barbican Theatre.

What’s being said on Twitter?

@chiggi I’ve studied, read, reread Antigone, and seen it a bunch of times—but never cried before, as I did last night @BarbicanCentre /Ivo van Hove.

@m_hanselaar Fabulous, gripping, unusual, version of timeless @antigone @BarbicanCentre with @julietbinoche and @Ivovanhove, go and immerse yourself

Will I like it?

Greek tragedy is all the rage in Theatreland at the moment. Last year Kristin Scott Thomas brought us Electra, Helen McCrory gave us Medea and received a Critics’ Circle Theatre Award in return, and now another acclaimed female performer has provided the gift of Antigone. Poetic and at times somewhat colloquial – Antigone isn’t exactly renowned for its “jibes and banter” – Anne Carson’s translation reinvigorates the piece, with Binoche’s stirring yet understated performance as the fated heroine forming a striking centrepiece.

This is not an intense, drama-packed take on Antigone, not by any stretch of the imagination, but that’s not what Van Hove intended. It’s a striking, atmospheric production that invites you to witness a Binoche performance far removed from her screen work and another innovative piece of staging from Van Hove that will have audiences walking between the Wyndham’s Theatre and the Barbican in awe of his work.


Antigone is playing at the Barbican Theatre until 28 March. Tickets are limited but you can book them through the venue’s website.


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