Director Travis Dowling Sees Sophocles' Antigone as a Looking-Glass Into our Contemporary World Today
This week, I had the wonderful opportunity of interviewing Travis Dowling, director of Queensland Theatre's upcoming production Antigone, and its voice in our contemporary world. Here's what he had to say...
VIRAG: Sophocles' Antigone is set in the mythical past which one may argue is a safe place to present contemporary political issues without outright political affiliations. As creatives, would you agree or disagree with this statement?
TRAVIS: Yes, I think this is why we put on classics like Antigone. The politics of this work stands the test of time and mirrors so many current political debates going on in our world. It is a story about a young woman standing up for what she believes in. At a time when our young people are marching the streets and protesting for climate change led by voices like Greta Thunberg this story hits home. It also echoes and brings into question our current world leaders and their attitude towards the next generation of voices.
VIRAG: As a theatregoer, I often approach the modern adaptations of historical works with caution. I'm often left wondering whether or not my favourite line or part of the play will still be included or whether or not it will lose its essence. As creatives, how do you ever feel that you have more weight on your break when you're directing or composing modern adaptations? Or do you feel that when working with the original text?
TRAVIS: I feel the same way. I think when approaching the classics we have to make sure we never lose the essence of the piece that made it a classic in the first place. Merlynn' version of this work honors so much of the original. The work is still set in Thebes, the characters are still the same, and argument is the original argument. However, Merlynn has added nuance, her unique poetry and a modern structure of the work. She has chosen to drill down and examine the family tragedy of the work whilst still exploring the epic nature of the debate.
VIRAG: I'm very interested to see how has Merlynn Tong has adapted and contextualised the play for modern times. In comparison to the original text, would you describe the tone of the work as lighter or darker?
TRAVIS: It is hard to answer if the work is lighter or darker. I think this version has a different tone to the original text. There are moments of softness that we do not see in the original text and moments of horror that this production leans into that are only referenced in the original. So, both.
VIRAG: When I first read the text, I was struck at how many themes it manages to juggle in such a seamless way. There were so many hidden messages about family dynamics, the notion of citizenship and what is right and what is wrong, to name a few. What messages and reflections would you like the audience to leave with?
TRAVIS: I would love audiences to leave with a visceral understanding of what family means, how important burial rights are, and how the argument of Civil Rights and human-made law affects the individual. In addition, I would hope they begin to compare what has just happened on stage to what is happening in our world right now.
Performed by Queensland Theatre
Directed by Travis Dowling
Adapted by Merlynn Tong
26 October - 16 November
Bille Brown Theatre, Queensland Theatre