Oxygen House Returns

Oct 3 2017 | By More

Antigone plays Netherbow

Edinburgh theatre company Oxygen House celebrates its thirtieth anniversary this week, with a return to the Scottish Storytelling Centre and a modern-dress production of Sophocles’ Antigone.

The company was active in the late eighties and early nineties, producing around thirty plays across six critically acclaimed lunchtime seasons at the Netherbow theatre, working with new writing and writers not normally associated with theatre.

Kat Shepherd as Antigone, Pic Jon Davey Photography

Antigone is the first new Oxygen House production for twenty years, and is presented by students and former students of Edinburgh’s Acting Out Drama School. It was also the first time the company has mounted a production of a classic play.

John Mitchell, Oxygen House artistic director, says that he usually works on new writing or contemporary and devised plays.

“Acting Out gave me my first opportunity to work with classics texts,” he says. “Which I found more satisfying than I would have imagined. We put on Antigone for one night over a year ago, and I felt strongly it deserved another outing.

“The production fits perfectly with Oxygen House’s stripped back aesthetic and our thirtieth anniversary seemed the perfect opportunity to revive it and to signal a bold new direction for the company going forward.”

reputation for bold choices

Oxygen House had a reputation for bold choices in its original incarnation, notably working with Glasgow-based comic book writer Grant Morrison, whose plays Red King Rising and Depravity won the company a Fringe First, a Capital Award and the Independent Theatre Award between them.

Sophocles’ play, tells of Antigone, who buries her brother Polynices in defiance of the life or death decree laid down by Creon, the new queen of Thebes. The question is whether the children of Oedipus can ever break free of the curse brought upon them by the sins of their father.

Mitchell’s own choices for boldness were partly forced upon him, as he explains: “The class working on Antigone was made up of six women and one man – and we’ve kept to that ratio, so both our Creon and Tiresius are female, which adds a powerful resonance to the production, I feel.

“We’re using Dudley Fitts and Robert Fitzgerald’s 1939 translation, but we’ve gone for a contemporary totalitarian look in the costuming. No robes or masks.”

Mitchell sees the performances at the Storytelling Centre as something of a return to the company’s spiritual home, with the success of Oxygen House being due, in no small part, to its director Donald Smith.

“Donald gave us a home, welcomed us with open arms and let us do whatever we wanted without any interference whatsoever,” remembers Mitchell. “I’m sure we abused his hospitality mercilessly, but the Netherbow afforded Oxygen House an incredibly fertile hothouse to play and grow in, and we owe Donald a huge debt of thanks.”


Scottish Storytelling Centre, 43-45 High Street, EH1 1SR. Box Office: 0131 556 9579
Monday 2 – Wednesday 4 October.
Evenings: 8pm.
Tickets £10/8 from www.scottishstorytellingcentre.co.uk


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