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A new Antigone: Lisa Dwan on misogyny and why we have to have new stories




A new Antigone: Lisa Dwan on misogyny and why we need new stories

esterday a female theatre colleague I respect enormously sent me a photograph of a billboard outdoors a London theatre with a handwritten observe plastered about it. The detect: “I read you are functioning with…” followed by a listing of male administrators. Underneath it, a warning in daring: “BE Very careful this is not a full record #MeToo”. The information that accompanied this picture study: “Things are shifting”.

I didn’t reply. #MeToo has extensive lost its glow for me. New hashtags look just about every 7 days: #shewaswalkinghome #reclaimthestreets #toomanymen. These days as I walked dwelling to compose this, a gentleman leaned out of a passing van and shouted “slag” at me. This night, when I refused to open up my doorway to a salesman who stated he was on a jail reformation scheme, he named me a “skanky cow”  and warned me that now that he is familiar with in which I stay, he would be again.

This early morning I phoned a popular female barrister friend, who has been defending abused girls in the courts for above 40 many years and questioned, “It’s getting worse isn’t it?” “Yes,” she reported, “it is.” Women of all ages, because of to education and insignificant shifts in human rights regulation, are slowly and gradually gaining autonomy, incrementally raising their share of electric power – forcing men to both share their platforms or stretch past a mediocrity they have guarded for centuries. And guys do not like it. Just after a whilst it is really hard not to study all individuals hashtags with each other as just one uncomplicated assertion: #TheyHateUs.

This is the exhausting condition that fed into Pale Sister, my new film/theatre creation with the author Colm Tóibín. Screening on BBC Four on Tuesday, it focuses on the tale of the tragic (is there any other type?) classical heroine Antigone, who defied King Creon’s decree in buy to give her brother a good burial, and died for it.

Antigone is just 1 between a lot of feminine figures in Greek classical literature who characterize the hazard that women of all ages pose. Our historic grasp storytellers realized the worth of silencing them. As democracy was becoming designed out of oligarchy, the Greeks used theatre to regulate the narrative. Their male citizens (not women of all ages – ladies ended up scarcely permitted out of the home) have been compensated to attend the theatre to view actors (gentlemen) carry out plays created by males – generally about challenging ladies.

These ended up brilliantly told parables, warning shots – Antigone, the best upstart, who threatens civil culture by likely against a potent man’s orders. Medea, the overseas mother, an unnatural creature who will destroy your little ones. And what to do with the strong, clever, appealing Medusa? Why, cut off her head.

The Trump campaign regularly made use of the impression of Perseus holding up Medusa’s severed head, often with Hillary Clinton’s deal with superimposed on it. It seems not likely that all Trump supporters had a complete information of classical Greek literature, but nonetheless he realized he was major them through an ancient architecture that is even now incredibly significantly erect in our minds. As I viewed his inauguration in 2016, it struck me: he arrived at the most strong situation in the world by tapping into a long-standing, deeply embedded narrative. With his slogans and his hashtags (#lockherup, #nastywoman), he understood how to result in a deep and historic misogyny.

2016 built me realise that we in the arts bear a accountability for the state of factors, mainly because we are the learn perpetuators of these stifling and misogynistic archetypes with the tales that we explain to and retell.

For a lot more than a decade prior to that instant, I experienced been uniquely liberated from narrative completely, acquiring spent most of that time touring a quantity of a single-female performs by Samuel Beckett. Beckett doesn’t seriously generate people, but creatures who are striving very little extra than to convey their humanity. “No need to have of a story,” he tells us, “life by itself is adequate.”

Beckett gave my creativeness the scope and permission to dissolve the boundaries of the little self I thought I was. I obtained to peel absent the trappings – and entrapment – of a girl of what culture does to us as females to go further than the constraints we established ourselves. Hovering 8 toes previously mentioned the stage in his monologue Not I, with my blindfolded head tied into a vice, my arms in brackets, was finally just so damn liberating. To have your body taken out, as a lady and as an actress, is a great reward.

For Not I, all that was seen to the audience was Dwan’s mouth

/ press impression

The complications only grew to become evident when I commenced to do “normal” roles all over again, when I experienced to the moment once again flatten myself into a cardboard cut out – quite, inane, reflector boards for the thoughtful, clever, humorous male position. As an actor, my occupation is to provide what is created, to make these patriarchal narratives work. So I did my very best to inject all these figures with nuance and contradiction, to dignify them with resonance – anything I experienced learnt in excess of the past 10 years or so in Beckett’s world. This didn’t go down nicely, at minimum not in the rehearsal rooms in which I found myself. And my ordeals received a large amount worse immediately after Trump acquired elected.

The truth of the matter is I’m not incredibly skilled at running men’s inner thoughts when I’m performing. I’m centered on my individual complicated task, and I ignore that, as a woman, at just about every juncture I have to do what no person require at any time do – make confident all the adult males about me are emotion valued and revered, and do every little thing in my power to ensure they have dominance equally on and off phase.

Touring the earth accomplishing terrifying 1-female Beckett performs, I experienced neglected to be fearful on a each day basis. I commenced – and this sort of feeling just creeps up on you when your self-worth isn’t established by males – to see these guys as equals.

I began to see all the heartbreaking creative and lifestyle compromises I had designed in striving to meet their demands, to preserve the slim shells of egos. I began to establish notions of myself that experienced nothing to do with them. I started to resist. And when I did, I fulfilled rage.

And so when Colm Tóibín came to see me in my generation of Beckett’s No’s Knife in 2017, and explained to me that he wished to generate me a participate in, I straight away stated, “I need an Antigone.”

As the central character in her eponymous play by Sophocles, Antigone was the rationale I needed to grow to be an actor and yet when I was cast in the position in my late teenagers, I by no means managed to make it work. In the yrs that followed I noticed far improved actors than me flip their fingers to it, and I came to the realisation that which is how it’s published – not to do the job. In this famed feminist text, all the ladies combined take up fewer than 30 for each cent of the true discourse, Antigone herself is the minimum considerable, and but good writers have flocked to more subvert her impression Jean Anouilh turns her into a shrill adolescent, Bertolt Brecht turns her into a fascist, Seamus Heaney sentimentalises her, Tom Paulin makes her an Irish innovative and Conor Cruise O’Brein refers to her as an “agent of non-violent violence”. As the literary critic George Steiner claims, for 2,000 several years, Antigone’s story has been retold and re-imagined but always with the implicit information: “Antigone, lie down!” And still she persists.

My ambition, with what we came to connect with the Antigone Challenge, was to put some flesh on her to make it difficult to arrive at people worn-out conclusions, to give my nieces and the next era of storytellers new approaches of looking at her. Colm would send out me a draft scene in the morning. I would then file it for him and send out it back in the afternoon. And then we would get on the cellphone and the arguments would begin. “I’m not indicating the term shrill Colm!” “Why are you describing Creon as sane and Antigone as mad?”

Looking again I don’t know how Colm stuck it out, but I’m desperately glad he did. And I by no means gained all the arguments, and that was a excellent factor, in any other case we would have succeeded only in developing a polemic and not a drama. “Lisa,” Colm would say, “politics are no very good to me now to publish this scene. I require an graphic.”

It was Colm’s concept to publish from Antigone’s sister Ismene’s level of see. He quickly noticed significantly additional scope in the vantage place of the peaceful character in the corner. The excellent sister the one particular who acquiesces and in change the 1 who life, who is left to talk to the problem not only of herself but of all of us: who are we, if we are not Antigone? What need to we do when we realise that it expenses us extra to continue to keep the peace than to stand up and say, I am not frightened?

A single of the most enduringly thriving techniques of the patriarchy is how it has managed to divide and rule. How it sets Antigone and her sister against every single other to check with, do you want to battle and die, or comply and dwell? Women of all ages have internalised hundreds of years of misogynistic messages like this. I assume of the 52 p.c who voted for a guy who boasted about grabbing gals by the pussy for enjoyment. For me this is the most painful facet of this mess. I know a whole lot of brave and lonely women I am a person.

These days I felt the initially flutter of my daughter transferring inside me. In a couple months I will, if anything goes properly, develop into a mother for the initially time. I feel powerless thinking of how I want the earth to be for her, in fact for all the younger ladies reading through this. I want to sense that my technology has contributed more to you then just hashtags. But perhaps that is the language we can but communicate as girls – just one of opposition and outrage, the language of Antigone as she stands from the patriarchy only to do what she feels is appropriate.

I can’t say that we however have a language of our possess, a narrative that is no cost from a prolonged record of male violence and oppression. Nevertheless we have to have to drive against individuals narratives additional than at any time, with defiance and without the need of worry and, in the finish, with love – and recognise that it is they who are fearful, afraid of us realising how highly effective we are. And most likely it is only when we can split free and really inhabit our individual ability that we can see that we are, as Beckett states, “all of a person brain, we are all of one particular intellect… deep down we are fond of a person one more.”

Pale Sister is on BBC Four on Tuesday March 30 at 11pm


The Pursuit of Like evaluation: A mischievous Mitfordian delight




The Pursuit of Love review: A mischievous Mitfordian delight

ow fitting: this adaptation of Nancy Mitford’s most intoxicating novel is so superior that it produced me truly feel a little bit drunk. It comes to fill the Line of Obligation-formed hole in our Sunday evenings and will blissfully eradicate all recollections of police officers shouting about ‘HONES-TAAAAY and IN-TEG-RAAA-TAAAY’.

Adapted and directed by Emily Mortimer with mischievous Mitfordian spirit, it’s bought the ton: romance, solution conferences in cupboards, sploshing tub drinking water, indignant higher-class patriarchs, luscious interiors and biting wit. The star-studded cast are possessing a hoot too: Lily James, Andrew Scott, Emily Beecham and Dominic West are all on shriek-deserving top kind (just never mention microscooters in Rome).

Our heroine is Linda Radlett (James), a romantic soul who smooches windows and throws Virginia Woolf guides out of the window her much additional useful cousin and most effective mate Fanny (Beecham) is our narrator. Bored to demise in the family’s massive place pile (of course, they are all mad poshos, but just go with it), Linda is desperate to escape her father, Uncle Matthew (West), who hates educated women, likely overseas, and, well, something remotely contemporary. As a teenager she declares: “I aspire to real adore – the form that only comes the moment in a life span and lasts permanently.” That is fairly significantly her manifesto for lifetime – usually hunting for something more substantial, deeper and real.

Lily James plays absolutely free-spirited Linda Radlett

/ Theodora Movies Restricted & Moonage Photos Constrained/Robert Viglasky

If that all sounds a bit foolish and girly, it’s not. For Linda, the pursuit of appreciate is seriously the quest for practical experience. Whilst the novel, revealed in 1945, is nearer to our time than Austen, its young women of all ages are nonetheless at the mercy of the marriage marketplace – rushing into unions with terrible males, believing it will supply them escape instead than just a modify of scenery. By natural means, Linda falls in enjoy with the 1st gentleman she sees, Tony Kroesig (Freddie Fox searching like a Babyliss curling tong has held him at knifepoint), a pompous bore who later turns into a Tory MP – in 1 realizing shot, he reclines on the environmentally friendly benches a la Jacob Rees-Mogg. She learns the difficult way that marriage is not the fairy tale she believed it would be. Somewhere together the way, the Radletts’ neighbour, Lord Merlin (Scott) tries to mentor Linda and mould her as a vibrant younger issue – but her depth and headlong hunger for daily life pave the way for additional disastrous really like affairs. “What if you die?” Fanny asks her. “I’m not that type of man or woman,” Linda replies.

Fanny (Emily Beecham) in the hons cupboard

/ Theodora Films Restricted & Moonage Images Confined/Robert Viglasky

Mortimer is the fantastic match for Mitford: she totally gets her figuring out humour and irreverent tone, but she also finds a playful and visually joyful way to tell the story. The novel, which cemented the legend of the Mitford sisters, is slender but not meticulously structured – Mortimer will make a virtue of this by building it really feel like we’re rifling as a result of an previous scrapbook, with scenes interspersed with tongue-in-cheek captions and black and white photos. The soundtrack, which incorporates Le Tigre, Sleater-Kinney and T-Rex, provides an electric powered feeling of Linda as a modern day rebel.

It’s an aesthetic feast, but Mortimer also subtly illuminates sections of the novel in means that drop new mild. Fanny results in being a great deal far more than a perfunctory narrator – here’s she the ying to Linda’s yang, a devoted soulmate who happens to choose a distinct path. The pair grow to be unmoored without the need of just one yet another – it’s just that Linda expresses it additional substantially. And Linda’s cold connection to her daughter – one particular of the novel’s most renowned strains is “it’s kinder not to look” just immediately after she’s been born – turns into substantially additional comprehensible it is the outcome of a lady suffering from deteriorating psychological overall health after a traumatic childbirth and an unloving marriage.

Andrew Scott is a riot as Lord Merlin

/ Theodora Films Limited & Moonage Images Limited/Robert Viglasky

It may perhaps appear a stretch to have James and Beecham – 32 and 36 respectively – enjoying Linda and Fanny from youngsters, but they brilliantly seize the powerful, magic formula giggly-ness of a friendship involving young women of all ages, and they develop up prior to our eyes. Beecham sympathetically portrays Fanny’s fears of descending into frumpy domesticity, even though James’s triumphant effectiveness as Linda gives us an effervescent heroine for the ages. As a teenager, she sobs, swoons and claims points like “it’s really hard ample to get rid of a rabbit, permit alone oneself”, endearingly melodramatic devoid of at any time turning into cartoonish. Later, at her wedding day to Tony, as she realises she’s earning an terrible error, she only sighs and closes her eyes – and ages 10 yrs in a minute.

We’re quite frankly spoiled to have a cast this excellent firing on all cylinders. Scott and West are ridiculously ideal as the influential gentlemen in Linda’s life who every single have the polar reverse result. Lord Merlin, the arty neighbour who retains pigeons and dyes them dazzling colours – “oh they love it! It can make them so pretty for 1 another” – is an eccentric. But Scott, as at any time, does barmy with nuance, conjuring a close friend who equally nurtures and anxieties about Linda’s intimate sensibility.

He hates adulterous gals… Dominic West performs Uncle Matthew

/ Theodora Movies Minimal & Moonage Photographs Minimal/Robert Viglasky

West channels correct unreconstructed masculinity as Uncle Matthew, screaming until finally he’s crimson in the face about how disgusting he finds adulterous women of all ages (smirk) and inviting only his crusty peer buddies to his daughter’s dances. In just one scene, observing Lord Merlin’s close friends, he simmers, “That Person is holding a COMB” as if it’s the most obscene issue he’s ever viewed. Also great is John Heffernan as Fanny’s hypochondriac new move-uncle Davey Warbeck, Assaad Bouab (of Connect with My Agent! fame) as charming French man Fabrice, the only male Linda definitely connects with, and Mortimer herself as the Bolter, Fanny’s absent mother who is perpetually having affairs. Although she only pops up when she pleases, she haunts the action as a cautionary tale, every thing Linda is warned not to develop into.

Possibly the script at times lays the ‘are you a Fanny or a Linda’ subtext on a bit thick – but its supreme concept is that girls need to have considerably larger decisions readily available to them. It’s not just the most pleasant period of time drama we have experienced in years, but a adore letter to females who want far more, and a celebration of the ideal to be unique. Nancy Mitford would approve.

The Pursuit of Adore is on BBC One particular on Sunday at 9pm

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