by lauren noble
I was 16 years old when I first read Antigone. It was one of many, many challenging texts that I would grapple with over the course of five years in my favourite class: dramatic arts. I was astounded by the content. A young girl named Antigone defies the laws of King Creon, her own uncle, in favour of the rituals that were prescribed by her gods. I was immediately invested in the story of her family. Antigone and Ismene - sisters and "the last cursed branches of this family tree" - presented as contrasting types of women. I remember 16 year old Lauren judging Ismene fiercely - she was the weak one, the submissive one, the one who disappears halfway through the text and no one gives a damn! With time and distance I realise that, even then, my own feminism was taking shape. I am now 34 years old and Ismene has become the character I am most intrigued by because of how she represents women who come to inherit their feminism later in life. You see, my own experiences as a woman navigating this patriarchal world have provided me with enough insight to reevaluate that which I believed to be true. Of women like Ismene. Of women like Britney Spears. Antigone and Ismene are not contrasts of one another, they are a manifestation of a feminism that some are born with and some come to know later in life. Both are valid because both exist.
"Antigone Retold is a reimagining of the tale of Antigone, daughter of the cursed house of Oedipus and an anachronistic feminist icon who was centuries ahead of her time. Our version follows the tale of Antigone as portrayed by our traditional cast who speak the script as translated from Sophocles’ original play from 441BCE however, interspersed amongst the ancient narrative, we have exchanged the chorus of “old Theban citizens” with the Seven Devils of Greek Mythology. Meta-directed by Calliope, the muse of epic poetry and our new chorus leader, our audience is introduced to Athena, Hera, Medusa, Aphrodite, Megara and Pandora who provide us with the complicated contemplations of the 21st century feminist in relation to the central narrative of Antigone. Antigone Retold consciously shines the proverbial spotlight on this group of formidable, famous mythological women who have occupied an intricate feminist and even anti-feminist space for 2500 years. Perhaps it’s about time we heard what they think…" ~ Lauren Noble, research proposal (2022)
As a theatre-nerd who was born and raised in South Africa, I have experienced a political landscape through the medium of the arts. It is my favourite space to grapple with everything that I want to know more about and as a teacher at heart I enjoy the act of engaging with others to know more too. One aspect of my pedagogy as an arts teacher has always been to revere the ancient forms of the arts without being afraid to challenge them or shake them up. Very early on in this devising process knew early on that the beautiful choral odes of the Ancient Greek chorus were a pressure point for a tale that was so innately feminist. They - like Sophocles, the playwright - are men. And I wanted to hear from the women, using them as a way to deconstruct the tale of Antigone by reconstructing their own narratives from out of the classical story they were watching unfold below them. I started devising around the Ancient Greek mythologies I had always loved and suddenly I met a group of women who were an amalgamation of my imagination, ancient myths and the input of my cast into their own narratives. This is my way of bringing the beauty of classical theatrical forms and 21st century culture together in a way that feels organic. It is definitely the most difficult, complex, multi-layered piece of writing I have ever written! This is due, in part, to the fact that not every type of feminism presented on our stage is my type of feminism at the end of the day. I have learned from Ismene not to judge but to engage these complexities. And then, much like Calliope, I acknowledge that I am only the conduit for a story that is so much bigger than I am. In the immortal words of Hera: "This is about the women!"
to Sashin. My Bex, this would simply never have happened without you. Your presence here in Dubai, taking two months out of your very manic life back home where you are doing the things, to give of yourself and your craft to our cast is honestly one of the most selfless things I've ever experienced. You are my soul twin, my theatre twin, my magic and fantasy twin. And the love I have for you is only exceeded by my awestruck admiration for what you bring to your craft. I love you.
to Kirin and Cat. You two are a Dubai Drama Group dream team to trump all dream teams. Thank you for every piece of advice, every document template, every props grab, every moment of support and bolstering when we've needed it!
to Hass. You are the resident go-to-guy and we love you for it. You get a front row seat to the next show. Thank you for all the (many, many) laughs and always being up for the random techie stuff.
to Wemmy of Mawaheb. We love your venue, as does everyone who walks through the doors of our temporary Museum Mawaheb. Thank you for being so willing to let the chaos that is theatre into your space for these past two months. You have made such a difference to the professionalism of our production by providing us with rehearsal time.
to Brighton and Happiness. You two are part of our growing co|laboratory family now - and the show shirts are only the beginning. We adore you both!
to our sponsors. Thank you for everything! I am completely in awe of how willingly you all gave of yourselves and your brand for this project to see the light of day. Our design partner, Dryad Education, for your generous donation of quality art supplies. Our cultural partner, Emirates LitFest, for your presence and support and love of literature and everything you do for reading and writing in this region! Our film partner, Raindance Film Academy Dubai, for the way you just became this amazingly seamless component of our performance weekend.
to Amita. The ease with which you melt in and out of each role to ensure this play could continue is every proof I need that one day I will be saying "I taught that beauty a few years ago..." Mad love for you, babe!
to our artists. You all deserve to shine in a spotlights made for you - we hope you feel like a part of our family because we have loved having you alongside us for this experimental journey.
to our volunteers. Your work ethic and laughter is infectious! The team from Girl Up On Stage have our hearts - young feminists making their way in the world and getting down to brass tax with the audience. These have been some of the best conversations I have had backstage in since I was last at university and being challenged in every sense. The future is in good hands!
to our Antigone Retold cast and crew. There are no words. Which is crazy because together we found the words for this beautiful thing you have brought to life. I could never have imagined a story from inside my mind could come to life like this. But it did. And that's because of you. Thank you.
to my Craigie. For your love and support for the past two months in the build up to this meaningful moment in my life and career. And, of course, for the notes sessions you have with Bex and I! They're always so thoughtful and have been a guiding element of my decisions as a director for 17 years. I am so very grateful that you chose to take me to your Matric Dance in 2005. I love you.
our production team
Director and Scriptwriter - Lauren Noble
Choreographer - Sashin Kandhai
Stage Manager - Kirin Hilliar
Dramaturg - Vishal Kumar
Music Director - Anisa Bharmal
Mawaheb Café - Brighton and Happiness
our classical cast
Antigone - Shazia Maskati
Ismene - Aditi Agarwal
Creon - Sadiq Saboowala
Haemon - Abishek Nair
Tiresias - Kirin Hilliar
our seven devils
Hera - Anisa Bharmal
Athena - Ivana Vajman Jackson
Aphrodite - Gauri Chadha
Calliope - Jessica Kaye Temple
Medusa - Kyra Mascarenhas
Megara - Sarah Mcneice
Pandora- Vaibhavi Naik
Dancer - Sashin Kandhai
Dancer - Katherine Jones
Dancer- Sasha Topic