EDINBURGH 2019: BWW Review, BITCH, ANTIGONE, theSpace on the Mile
Australian company Out Cast Theatre return to the Fringe with another outrageous deconstruction of a theatre classic, in the same vein as their The Importance Of Being Earnest As Performed by 3 F**king Queens & A Duck.
Bitch, Antigone is written and directed by Steven Dawson, who also plays the title role in the guise of Mynniscus, an ageing diva of the Athenian stage, horribly hungover and really not up for a matinee of the Sophocles tragedy. His fellow actors, played by Matthew Roberts and Scott Middleton, do everything in their power to drag him on to the stage and ensure a win at the cut-throat Dionysian Drama Festival.
Like many productions before it, Bitch, Antigone rests on the comedic principles that actors are massively competitive prima donnas and shows are funnier when things go wrong. It is a well-trodden vein, and the production spends an interminably long time in its indulgent prologue dwelling on the conflict between the actors before getting to its take on Sophocles.
Unfortunately, the comedy mostly misses the mark, with much of the humour resting on the addition of expletives. It aims for a camp style, but completely lacks the bitchy wit of drag queen put-downs.
It's a missed opportunity given the material, with Sophocles' original largely composed of high drama duologues, full of conflict and perfect for wig-snatching bitch fights without needing such additions to be funny. Indeed, Creon's first speech, played by Matthew Roberts with the minimum of editing but with an affected camp attitude, brought some sign of potential to the idea.
Roberts also captured some amusement with passages of self-important attempted gravitas, and his scene with Haemon (Scott Middleton) seemed to be from a different, slightly funnier, production.
While many of the audience took some amusement from it, bawdy takes on sacred classics are not original enough to succeed without stronger wit. Bitch, Antigone offered up little new, funny or clever, and such a missed opportunity for comedy is surely a tragedy.