Themes of bereavement, missing loved ones and fears that the dead will never be buried are ones that follow the narrative of Sophocles’ tragedy ‘Antigone’. They are also everyday occurrences for the Syrian Refugee women who reenacted the famous greek tragedy on stage.
The project began as a way to help the women forget the torments of their daily lives and give them a much needed distraction, but soon turned into something far deeper.
For once the rehearsals began, the producers soon realised that the story of ‘Antigone’ was a tale not that different from the one that these women were living on a daily basis.
Their workshops continued over a period of eight-weeks, and soon, the greek tragedy found its way into the sentiments and memories of the women who were performing it.
The play then became a culmination of the women’s real-life stories and the ancient text.
Sophocles’ 2,500-year-old play was produced by Aperta Production, a charity organisation that aims to provide a safe place for refugees to express their trauma and rebuild their emotional and physical strength after years of anguish and pain.
In the play, the protagonist Antigone defies her king and uncle Creon, by attempting to perform funeral rites for her slain brother who has been labelled a traitor. Her fate is determined when the King announces that she will be put to death and risks the stability of the state if she continues to defy the King.
“Antigone raises the cause of a woman facing…a patriarchal authority and a male-dominant society,” said Mohammed al-Attar, a Syrian playwright hired by Aperta to create the contemporary version of the play.
For the Syrian actors, who reside in overcrowded refugee camps in Beirut, the play was also a platform to share their experience to a country that “feels burdened by their presence.”
Mona Fa, one of the performers, spoke of her elation at receiving a standing ovation on opening night.
“We wanted to deliver a certain image to the people so they see us and the Syrian refugees in another way from the image they usually look at.”
“We all felt like Antigone in time,” Mona said. “We all defied different Creons.”