Theatre reviews: Antigone and Thriller Live

Antigone director Marcus Romer
Antigone director Marcus Romer
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Antigone, York Theatre Royal ***

Pilot Theatre Company has always done things a little differently – how many theatre companies witness the opening of their latest play while also seeing their debut movie show at a film festival?

Is different always better? No. Is it better in this updating of the Greek tragedy Antigone? Sometimes. Roy Williams has taken the Sophocles play of the woman who defied a king by burying her slaughtered brother and paid the price, and transposed the tale to contemporary Britain.

An all-black cast in a Greek tragedy is just one of the things to praise – the fight for true multi-cultural representation on our stages is wearying and to see Pilot leading the way is heartening.

Williams’s script is peppered with slang and street talk – a verbal dance that is more convincing in the mouths of the older cast, particularly Mark Monero and more comical in the mouths of the younger. It sounds like they are trying too hard to sound ‘street’. But then, that is one of the themes running through this Pilot version of Antigone, what it means to come of age and assume the crown.

It feels like the wheels of the story are in inevitable motion and it is in the flashes of Williams’ sparky script that the joy comes. Director Marcus Romer also uses a stunning visual palette to paint pictures in this highly commendable production.

Thriller Live, Bradford Alhambra ***

In Thriller Live, the truth is that here are some exceptional performers singing some of the greatest pop songs ever written – but it feels like there is something vital missing from the show.

Even when Alex Buchanan, a seriously gifted performer who appears to be able to channel one of the greatest entertainers that has ever lived, is singing such a note-perfect rendition of Beat It that you can see the audience craning their necks to work out if it can really be a live performance, there is something lacking on the stage. The thing that’s lacking is, of course, the man who created the music being celebrated – Michael Jackson. Alas, this stage show is perhaps the closest fans will ever get to seeing, now, the music of their hero performed as it is meant to be. It still doesn’t really come close. It serves mostly as a reminder that Michael Jackson genuinely was a unique performer. It’s an insurmountable problem.

That said, true fans will recognise some phenomenally accurate performances and the blending of the different styles Jackson employed throughout his phenomenal career is never short of perfect.

• To November 8.