The most remarkable thing about The Morton Players’ Antigone is that its cast are aged just 17. But that’s the last time I’m going to mention that particular fact – because this pacy, witty, approachable show deserves to be rated on the same terms as anything you’ll find at the Fringe. It’s a colourfully boisterous retelling of the ancient Greek myth, which holds true to its classical setting, but adds enough modern reference points to dispel any sense of dustiness or mystery.
You can tell it’s going to be different when you enter the theatre, and find there’s a party going on. The eight-strong cast, exuberant in primary-coloured T-shirts, are ready to explain the themes of the play… and they’ll be using balloons to do it. Soon we’re galloping through the plot Oedipus Rex, before we land in a heap at the start of Antigone proper – an exhilarating rush of an opening, which somehow still manages to make the back-story comprehensible and clear.
The Morton Players didn’t write the script – that’s down to London-based Splendid Productions – but the verve, pace and crispness they bring to the delivery is all their own. That high-tempo opening morphs into a series of vignettes, which tell the tale in digestible segments interleaved with entertaining discussion. The eight-member ensemble are perfectly choreographed, filling the space with movement, and reaching out to every corner of the room; whether you’re on the front row or right at the back, there’ll be moments when it feels like they’re performing especially for you.
And that connection is important, because this is also a highly interactive show. Nobody’s coerced into joining in, but everyone can take part if they want to – and the cast’s enthusiasm is so irresistible that you’re sure to go along for the ride. Those balloons come out again as they help us explore themes like ‘power’ and ‘freedom’, talking us through the morals of the ancient plot and drawing convincing parallels with much more recent times.
But through these hijinks runs a thread of tragedy; and when the script demands it, the company prove more than able to find the story’s emotional heart. Eleisha Harvey as Antigone and Georgie Durie as Creon make effective, affecting foils, and each expresses their particular grief with sincerity and power. But this is a team effort, and the whole cast build the story, revealing the personal pain that drives the struggle for control.
To call this show a ‘play’ doesn’t quite describe it: think of it more as collaborative storytelling. It’s led by the cast on stage – but you, in the audience, also have a vital role. It’s informative and gently educational, and more than that, it’s fun. But be warned that it’s only on a short run at the Fringe, so catch it before it’s gone.