Reimagined and reinvented, the Queensland Theatre’s timeless tragedy of Antigone was a triumphant success. Simple sets, outstanding acts and great casts gave new life to the lyrical adaptation of the Sophocles’ epic.

A great city has been torn apart by a civil war between two brothers. In the aftermath, both lie dead – one hailed as a hero and lying in state, and the other condemned as a traitor and dumped in a carrion pile. From the ashes of their conflict rises a dystopian state under a new leader – a career politician who rose to power by dint of her ruthlessness.

Grieving and heartbroken, their sister Antigone challenges the leader for the right to bury and mourn her dead brother with dignity, sparking a furious act of rebellion that will shake the city to its foundations. Award-winning Brisbane playwright Merlynn Tong adds an urgent modern twist to reunite Christen O’Leary and Jessica Tovey after their triumphant pairing in Twelfth Night.

Coming on the heels of Queensland Theatre’s last production Fangirls, Antigone provides a change of pace. Though the synopsis may read a little heavy, the play is fast and engaging from the opening scene. Shubshri Kandiah (Ismene) delivers the first surprise of the evening with her amazing vocals opening the play. Her singing punctuates the production, both adding to and diffusing the tension at key moments.

The Sophoclean prose was made accessible thanks to Tong’s script and excellent performances by the ensemble cast. Queensland Theatre stalwarts will be familiar with O’Leary’s work and her ability to shine no matter what role she plays. Even when performing a tragedy, her razor wit and ability to deliver lines with comedic precision is on show. Tovey excels in delivering her soliloquies – her passion and commitment fill the stage. Last appearing together in Twelfth Night, the duo demonstrated their versatility and ability to produce compelling performances whether appearing in comedies or tragedies.

Antigone completes this year’s season for Queensland Theatre. The production is now showing at Bille Brown Theatre until 16 November.

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