York: The Antigone Collective

by Madeleine Stone


York has a wide range of societies and opportunities for those interested in human rights, and two students have decided to combine this passion with their love of theatre to form a new human rights focused theatre company: The Antigone Collective.

After attending a module “Fictions of Human Rights” in their first year, second year English Literature students Minna Jeffery and Marta Donati were inspired by the wide range of mediums which authors and artists were using to explore human rights issues and wanted to bring something of this to York. Although not yet an officially recognised YUSU society (the pair are currently in the process of ratifying the society), The Antigone Collective already have over 100 likes on Facebook and have begun holding meetings to explain their vision to any student who would like to get involved.

The Collective describes its vision as the following:

1) We believe in a theatre that deals with people and is made by people.
2) We believe in simple stages.
3) We believe in actors, their bodies and their minds.
4) We believe in international theatre, in diversity, in theatre as connection and exchange.
5) We believe in theatre as an exploration of ideas, a world changing force which nurtures artistic expression and provokes and nourishes debates.

The formation of The Antigone Collective was partly inspired by the work of Athol Fugard, a South African playwright writing during the Apartheid who used interactive theatre to promote discussion, in particular his 1972 play “Sizwe Bansi Is Dead”. Performances created a space for black actors and audience members to have a voice in a system which made them voiceless and every play was written in close collaboration with members of South African townships, drawing on their everyday experiences to create powerfully honest theatre. In fact, a quote from Athol’s 1966 play “The Coat” perfectly sums up The Antigone Collective’s vision:

“You want to use the theatre. For what? … some of us say to understand the world we live in, but we also boast a few idealists who think that Theatre might have something to do with changing it.”

The Antigone Collective will give stripped back performances with the emphasis on voice and movement, rather than costumes and setting, much like Grotowski’s “poor theatre” of the 1950s which aimed to create theatre that focused on intimate and direct confrontation with the spectator. The Collective hope to utilise this style to produce a genuine connection between actors and audiences, and therefore establish a more personal engagement in the issues highlighted in their work.

The Antigone Collective’s first performance will be of “Animal Farm” by George Orwell, a text they feel “opens up questions about human rights” and allow the company to demonstrate its belief in stark, simple theatre (audition dates will be released soon). As well as this performance, the theatre company also aims to run film screenings, debates and writers workshops to encourage students from all disciplines to get involved in their vision.

For more information on The Antigone Collective and their upcoming projects and meetings, see their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/antigonecollective

Or alternatively you can ask to join their mailing list: antigonecollectiveyork@gmail.com

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