Antigone Classical Theatre: Duologues For a classical theatre assignment we were given a duologue from the Greek play, Antigone, written by Sophocles. The dialogue takes place between Creon, King of Thebes, and his son, Haemon. My partner for this was Brandon, who took the part of Creon and I played Haemon. The scene is about Haemon coming to confront his father concerning his decision on Antigones execution, Haemon’s fiance. Having previously read Oedipus the King, I had a reasonable knowledge of the circumstances prior to this play.
In the early stages of working the script we did a number of exercises to help us really work hard on the long monologues within the text, which could easily have become boring to an audience if the actor isn’t fully engaging with the text. One of the exercises we did was for the person speaking the text to stand behind their partner, the partner would then walk away if they felt they were losing interest in what the person speaking was saying, or if they felt they speaker was become disengaged in any way.
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This made you really work hard at being interesting, engaging and staying alive within the space, and under the pressure that you would face rejection if you didn’t keep this up. We did this exercise using the whole group as the listener, which produced an interesting result. The people furthest away from the speaker tended to move the furthest, indicating that projection was important when trying to keep an audience interested. An interesting point is that I decided to use a Greek method of mnemonics to memorise the text; loci.
This turned out to be effective as it gave me mental visual references for my monologue to connect to and made remembering the long sections of text very easy. This was mainly because I thought it would be interesting to do considering we were working with Greek theatre and didn’t have many real benefits. In the early stages of working the piece, my partner and I broke down the dialogue into small sections where we made decisions as to the tact we felt our characters we employing to portray their part of the argument.
We discussed each of these decisions and compared them to what the other had said previously and what we felt our characters reactions would be to what had been said, to try and maintain a flow of performance that didn’t jar and seemed natural. To make these decisions we had to look at the circumstances given to us prior to the scene and why the dialogue was taking place. Things that were really important to know within the decision making process were what the Greeks themselves felt to be the most important things within a man’s life; the gods, his family, and his City.
In this scene Haemon sees Antigone as his future family, and doesn’t want her to die, but he has to make sure he doesn’t disrespect his father whilst trying to confront him about the issue at hand. He uses a lot of tactics when trying to do this, and uses the importance of the city as leverage for his side of the argument. In later rehearsals we felt we understood the structure of the scene well, and how our characters journeys changed throughout. To try and make the scene a lot more detailed we looked closer at the father/son relationship and how we could show this better.
We used an exercise in spatial awareness between characters to develop this. The idea being that two people being close to one another in a relationship sense would feel they could stand physically very close to each other, and that they would employ that as an emotional tactic within the argument. This brought much more intimacy to the scene. We also broke down the dialogue into much smaller bits, instead of sections, trying to apply as much detail as possible in our actions and reactions to one another. I think the main strength in our performance came from the emphasis we made on the emotional father/son connection between the characters.
I think we became quite emotionally involved in the argument. Some of this came from the quality of our understanding of the text, and some from the relationship work we did on the piece. I would say that the weaknesses in our performance came from the lack of time we were able to spend together rehearsing. Unfortunately no matter how much we spent thinking about the piece, I don’t think it could be put into full use without rehearsing together a lot, meaning we would become freer within the space and have more time to experiment and find interesting details within performance.
I think therefore that we were perhaps a bit too still in places where we could have found more movement, and some of the dialogue lacked potential colouration. Even though we spent a lot of time breaking the text into smaller chunks, because we didn’t rehearse that enough, I think we played general tactics and objectives all through the performance, instead of using a wide variety, making the performance a bit duller over all.
To improve on the weaknesses in future performances I’ll make sure I find more time to rehearse with my partner. Even though there was a large monologue for each of us within the text that we could have rehearsed ourselves, I think we felt that it wouldn’t be right without our partners to work from their reactions, but it’s better to try things out that you might have to take away. It would allow more freeness in delivery.