Bone-head and bone-head, eyeball to eyeball. For director Barrie Rutter, Antigone and her uncle Creon, the self-appointed city leader whose law she has defied by burying her brother, offer a conflict of male and female principles. The Greeks, says Rutter, replaced earlier female religions, which were connected to the earth, with male-power myths.
Antigone's female values are built on the family - precisely what Creon destroys.
In Blake Morrison's free adaptation (Rutter insists it is true to Sophocles), Antigone enumerates four rules of the old law Creon is trampling over. They would have been in original audiences' minds: don't kill, no incest, honour parents, bury the dead.
Sally Carman's tough Antigone faces death resolutely, but cannot face the living death of imprisonment. She rejects her sister Ismene's eventual support - "If you're not with me, you're agin me," Rutter sums up Antigone's response. Having served her purpose in the play, Ismene departs and is never heard of again.
The sisters' opening dialogue is delayed till after the first (male) Chorus, rejoicing with ouzo, song and Northern Broadsides' typical clog-dancing, the day after war has ended. Later, this seven-man Chorus (one for each gate of Thebes) sits in a pub, dwindling away as actors leave to play individual characters. Morrison invents an eighth, metaphorical gate - Death. The Chorus comments throughout, agreeing with the prophet Tyresias that Creon (Rutter) must go back on his sentence against Antigone.
He does, but too late, losing his wife and son (Morrison adds to his guilt, referring to Creon having sacrificed his other son to ensure victory).
He starts like a war leader stepping out confidently to speak to the press.
His pristine (modern-day) suit is the only undamaged thing in sight. By the end, he's a crumpled heap surrounded by his family's corpses - beginning the living death he had planned for Antigone. The Chorus rejects their ruler: "They're not his friends", says Rutter.
Liverpool Everyman November 4-8, Salford Lowry 10-15, Scarborough Stephen Joseph 18-22, Halifax Viaduct 25-29. Published with Blake Morrison's version of Oedipus. Northern Broadsides pound;7.50 incl post Tel: 01422 369704 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org