A Greek tragedy revisited: Solène Weinachter in Scottish Dance Theatre’s Antigone, Interrupted

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
February 20, 2020

Róisín O’Brien

Solène Weinachter has been balancing on the balls of her feet for some time, as though strung up. “I see your red lipstick. I see the veins in your hand. I see you looking at me.” With her audience on all sides, she slowly inches around to notice as many bodies as possible. “I can feel my calves aching.” A whish of laughter from the crowd.

There’s always a frisson of sorts when a performer talks to their audience, even kindly or in small doses. What’s next? you think. Will I be singled out in some way? It’s an energy that’s certainly there in this adaptation of Sophocles’ tragedy, Antigone, Interrupted, a solo directed by Scottish Dance Theatre’s new artistic director, Joan Clevillé. But Weinachter doesn’t push or anger her audience: on the contrary, her manner is infectious and inviting. And the pay-off for such close proximity is a highly attuned audience. Attuned to Weinachter, attuned to their fellow spectators seated opposite them, attuned to the minimal but precise contributions of Luke Sutherland’s soundscape that peppers the performance with emotionally heightened voices and dusty landscapes.

Solène Weinachter in Antigone, InterruptedPhoto Maria Falconer
Solène Weinachter in Antigone, Interrupted
Photo Maria Falconer

Clevillé and Weinachter have approached the tragedy as archaeologists of sorts. They root around the play’s skeleton, while simultaneously excavating memories from Weinachter’s own past and looking to imagery of men in power and female activists throughout history. The result is an elastically strung-together hour of story and reflection, where Weinachter dives between riveting depicions of the play’s key moments and self-aware asides. “It’s a Greek tragedy, so we know it’s not going to end well.”

Some of the most powerful moments come from the intertwining of Weinachter’s movement with metaphorical imagery. In playing Ismene, the sister who cannot agree to Antigone’s defiant plan, she speaks as though from the bottom of a well, or as though swimming through thick mud. Is Ismene drowning in grief? Or politically repressed and unable to act? Both? While Weinachter’s vocal dexterity and power are evident, the additional amplification added through her microphone sometimes muddies her speech. And though the message Clevillé and Weinachter ultimately want to communicate with the work – that anybody can change history – feels honest and important, it appears as a speech that doesn’t quite grow organically out of the material that has come before. But these are minor things.

Weinachter is a performer who works instantaneously and without any seeming preparation before movement or speech, a wonderful skill to witness. It is perhaps even the height of performance, or the height of a certain type of performance at least, for your audience to never know what they are about to see, and so feel like they are watching something truly ‘lived’ and not ‘rehearsed’. Antigone, Interrupted: a work most definitely to be seen live, with a big crowd, and up close.

Antigone, Interrupted continues on tour to Shetland, London, Dundee, Stirling, Ardrishaig, Leeds, Banchory and Findhorn. Visit www.scottishdancetheatre.com for dates and further details.