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A universal story retold

LiveMint logoLiveMint 29-05-2014 Chanpreet Khurana

“Antigone is not just a character in a Greek tragedy, it is a universal tendency,” says theatre person Kuljeet Singh. The creative director of the New Delhi-based Atelier Repertory Company, who has now adapted the play by dramatist Sophocles into Punjabi and Urdu as Project Antigone, says Antigone’s “spirit of defiance” is part of the reason he feels the 441 BC text remains relevant even today.

Singh’s Project Antigone will be staged at the Capital’s India Habitat Centre on 1 June.

While the story remains broadly the same, in Singh’s hands the Greek tragedy is transformed into a protest play. In Sophocles’ Antigone, a civil war between Eteocles and Polynices ends with both brothers being killed. Their sister Antigone goes against the new king Creon’s wishes in wanting to bury Polynices, whom Creon has labelled a rebel. For Project Antigone, Singh has distilled just the episode where Antigone stands up to Creon, to highlight her courage in speaking up against a wrong. “There is a little bit of Antigone in all of us—a rebel who doesn’t take things lying down,” he says.

Singh’s hope is that audiences will leave with a bias to action.

Commissioned by the Punjabi Academy as part of a larger project to promote literature and theatre in the regional language, Singh’s production also experiments with form. Multiple narratives unfold simultaneously—there is the conversation between Antigone and Creon, an artist completes a painting on stage, a musician relates the unfulfilled love story of Antigone and Haemon in the “and then this happened” kissa format that interweaves couplets by the 17th century saint Hazrat Sultan Bahu, Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Rajesh Joshi, among other poets, and then there is a voice-over.

Singh says that all these elements together comprise the chorus in his play.

Project Antigone will be staged on 1 June, 7pm, at Stein Auditorium, India Habitat Centre, Lodi Road, New Delhi (43663333). Tickets, `200 and `300, available on

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