23 September 2023
Antigone by Dominik Smole is considered the most important Slovenian play which has not lost its poetic power and intellectual relevance since the time of its inception. When we re-examine the power of its stage images and performance potentials in view of these facts, we soon realise that we will not have to seek long to spot its contemporaneity, a feature that appears to be the ultimate claim of our present-day reality. Current relevance speaks volumes in every single one of Smole’s ambiguous lines of poetry. The world of today, in all its dimensions, remains to be Creon’s world, teeming with corpses awaiting the mercy of burial and demanding many an explanation. If Eteocles and Polyneices had died for the sake of their ideals, possibly for our common ideals, people in fratricidal wars of today are dying for one thing only, for Creon’s own good. There are so many bodies lying in the battlefields, mass graves and at the bottom of the sea, so many of Antigone’s brothers and sisters, that she will never be able to bury them all. This is the very horror that now screams out loud from Smole’s lines; this is the acrimony suffocating any hope with no respite.
However, Smole’s poetic drama is also a witty, at times almost boisterous comic anatomy of Creon’s regime, with no spare room or a role for Antigone any longer. Having said that, it is also an attempt at a non-ideological, maybe even at just reordering of the affairs of the last war, so that the past will finally stop haunting us as a nightmare and a historical reminder. On the other hand, Smole prophetically inscribed in his text the future that we are living right now. The result is a poetic play that can accurately be considered the grand Slovenian text and the most important achievement of Slovenian theatre in recent history. Dominik Smole, in accordance with the circumstances and the spirit of his time, wrote it for the chamber theatre setting; it was a space organised primarily for the sound and meaning of poetry. Today, however, other dimensions of Smole’s drama are revealed to us as well. Antigone does not appear on stage, but she does sneak into dreams – not only Creon’s, the Page’s, the Watchman’s and others’, but ours too. When we walk behind her in our dreams, it is soon no longer clear whether we follow her in the deserted battlefields of a bygone Slovenian war, or whether we have landed in horrific images that come to us from Mariupol, Kherson and Bakhmut. In the twenty-first century, Antigone by Dominik Smole continuous to be not only a grand text, but also splendid theatre, a tragedy of the world seized by criminal autocracy and held in its grip.