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Saturday, 4 September 2010

Theatre - Welcome to Thebes - National Theatre

Star rating – 8/10

I didn’t know what to expect from this production at the National Theatre. I bought the ticket ages ago so I must have thought it looked interesting at the time, but couldn’t remember for the life of me what it was about. I was just hoping that it would be better than my last foray there to see the terrible Danton’s Death. I needn’t have worried.

This clever new play by Moira Buffini is a very interesting fusion of ancient Greek mythology, blended with her take on lessons from modern politics, democracy and leadership. It is set in Thebes in the 21st century, which is a state emerging from political dictatorship into a new dawn of democracy, led by a mainly female government. The new President is Eurydice, played with just the right amount of strength, humility, and terror at the task before her by the wonderful Nikki Amuka-Bird. She has called on her friendly neighbourhood superpower, Athens, to come and help out her war torn country. And help of sorts arrives in the shape of a swaggering visit from Theseus, the first citizen of Athens, played brilliantly by David Harewood, and his entourage.

The two leads are very convincing, and interact wonderfully as the state visit descends into sleazy half propositions, promises of aid unfulfilled, and the resulting recriminations. Thebes is trying desperately to emerge from its bloody past, but violence is never far from the surface, including the disturbing participation of children in the aggression. This struggle is cleverly interwoven with a modern day twist on the story of Antigone, daughter of the doomed king Oedipus.

It feels churlish to pick out Amuka-Bird and Harewood for their acting, as the whole cast is very impressive, and the production feels rounded, with vivid colour and music. It is clever, thought provoking, funny, and above all a very moving play. Obviously a great choice by me then…

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