A one-woman army - the solo performance of Antigone, Interrupted

Solene Weinachter, solo performer of Antigone, Interrupted

Image: Solène Weinachter, credit - Maria Falconer

Solène Weinachter had always dreamed of playing Antigone, as Joan Clevillé, Artistic Director of Scottish Dance Theatre tells it. The format of the latest production from Scottish Dance Theatre was perhaps not what she imagined when she looked at the stage as a child.

Produced in association with Perth Theatre, Antigone, Interrupted re-imagines a classic story for a contemporary world through the body and the voice of a single performer, the classic story being that of Greek tragedy Antigone.

The journey to Antigone

Weinachter and Clevillé have had a long-term working relationship and friendship, having met ten years ago as dancers at Scottish Dance Theatre.

Clevillé reminisced on the fact that they “always tended to be put together because we’re both tall!”

Following their time at the Scottish Dance Theatre as dancers, they met again as freelancers and then collaborated on work produced by Joan Clevillé Dance, Clevillé’s own company.

“We’ve had this really close artistic partnership for a long time, I would say, and so I suppose it was the desire of digging into that. It’s such a special thing when you get to know someone so well and you can start the conversation already far along - when you get into the studio there’s so much history.”

It’s this history that led Clevillé to understand Weinachter’s interest in the character of Antigone, the lead character in the Greek tragedy about a girl seeking to give her brother an honourable burial, against the wishes of the King.

Solene Weinachter, solo performer of Antigone, Interrupted

Image: Solène Weinachter, credit - Maria Falconer

When considering what a collaborative project could look like for the two of them, it seemed clear that a retelling of Antigone was the right choice. Weinachter, who has been nominated twice for the National Dance Award, and also for the Scottish Cultural Awards, had not yet explored the solo format as a full-length piece.

“I really wanted to celebrate this collaboration with making a solo work for Solène, with Solène,” Clevillé told us. “I knew that [Antigone] was a play that was important in her journey as a performer and also a person, and so all of these things seemed to come together.”

The title of the production stems from a book by Bonnie Honig, a critical assessment of the common interpretations and misinterpretations of the character of Antigone. This, as well as Antigone’s Claim by Judith Butler, inspired Clevillé with the feminist perspective they bring to the story.

He was heartened by the possibility the books put forward of interpreting the story in new and different ways, especially as he found himself attempting to process the political change and unrest happening in his hometown of Barcelona during the independence referendum that occurred there in 2017.

“I was interested in seeing what resonance the story has in our contemporary world, and how can we frame disobedience and disagreement in a more positive and constructive way so we can harness that energy in a constructive force in our democracy,” Clevillé explained.

Antigone on the road

Commissioned by the Rural Touring Dance Initiative, Antigone, Interrupted will premiere in Perth on the 14th and 15th of February before embarking on a tour that will include Edinburgh, Shetland, London, Dundee, Stirling, Ardrishaig, Leeds, Banchory and Findhorn.

Clevillé is passionate about touring across Scotland particularly, firmly believing in the importance of bringing high quality dance experiences to people across Scotland, and especially in rural areas. Antigone, Interrupted is staged in the round, a decision informed by a number of reasons – the intimacy and engagement with the audience, the nature of watching a solo performer, and further, the problem of sight lines within village halls.

“I was interested in making something that is specifically made for a rural context and therefore that it has that very close intimacy and proximity, because you’re performing in village halls, you’re not performing in big stages. We didn’t want to work with a conventional end on because that has problems with sight lines, so working in the round is a way to give everyone the best seat in the house. At the same time it fitted that idea of active engagement, and also there is that nice resonance and reference to the shape of a Greek theatre.”

He told us a story of how someone who grew up watching their performances in Ardrishaig had in fact gone on to become a professional dancer, something that he feels is a great example of why it’s so important to go on tours such as the one Antigone, Interrupted is about to set out on.

“When you’re performing in rural contexts, people are not necessarily coming to see you or the company. They are coming because something is on and they want to support the life of the community. You’re talking to people that normally you wouldn’t talk to, at different ages and stages of life, with different backgrounds, and different views. That’s the experience that the performance facilitates, that encounter, and for us to be performing in those communities and be interacting with them and them with us, I think that’s why we do what we do.”

You can find out more about Antigone, Interrupted, as well as tour dates, on the Scottish Dance Theatre website:

Scottish Dance Theatre - Antigone, Interrupted

This article was published on 17 Jan 2020