The mere mention of Greek tragedy may conjure dormant memories of classics courses long past: the dramatic commentary of the chorus, the laundry list of cacophonic names, the scoring from a Mexican progressive rock band. Okay, admittedly, that last one is a more modern addition.
“Everything we’ve done before uses very old-school traditional Mexican music, but in this particular instance, the music is contemporary,” Jorge Requena-Ramos, vocalist and guitarist of Winnipeg outfit The Mariachi Ghost, says.
The Mariachi Ghost and Sick + Twisted Theatre, a theatre company that prides itself on being “dedicated to creating work exploring the experience of living with a disability,” teamed up for a more contemporary take on Sophocles’ Antigone, produced in partnership with AA Battery Theatre.
The novel interpretation, running from Nov. 17 to 27 at the Théâtre Cercle Molière, marries the core story of the play with modern rock-musical sensibilities.
“We’re calling it a divine collision, where Greek tragedy is meeting modern-day realism,” Sarah Luby, who stars as the titular character, says.
While The Mariachi Ghost may seem like a curious fit for a play of this nature, their discography is actually similar to Antigone’s themes.
“Everything we do or have done in the band deals with death and dying, the cultural protocols after somebody has died. Antigone is basically a funerary play. It’s an interrupted funeral and what happens when those protocols aren’t allowed to be carried out,” Requena-Ramos says.
Co-composer Timothy Friesen and Requena-Ramos cite influences on their scoring from the golden era of vinyl records that include the Monkees, Elton John and Billy Joel, as well as perennial Broadway favourites.
“The New York sound from the ’60s and ’70s would be the most clear influence ... there are moments from Cats, from Rent, from Rocky Horror, from Repo,” Requena-Ramos says.
“We took all of those things and a very complicated dance text that is the libretto for the play, the script and turned that into songs. It was a huge challenge.”
Producer and actor Andrea del Campo corroborates the ingenuity of the unlikely pairing.
“We also chose them because they’re a very theatrical band,” del Campo says. “They have written a play before. They wrote a musical and composed all the music for it, and (they) wear costumes and makeup on stage.”
Sick + Twisted hopes to spotlight disabled voices through both content and casting.
“There’s indications over history and in some of the wording that (Antigone) does struggle with mental illness. I think that’s so important to be represented on stage,” Luby says.
“I live with multiple invisible disabilities ... I think it’s so powerful to incorporate your disability into the performance. When I’m becoming that character, how can I make what I’m feeling with my disabilities also what Antigone is feeling? It’s all interconnected in so many ways.”
Even after the final curtain is drawn, the show is far from over. Plans are currently in place to shoot and release a film based on the production.
“We’re making it so it can be disseminated online to people who either just want to see it online or to disabled patrons who find it too challenging or impossible to attend a live performance,” del Campo says.
Antigone plays at the Théâtre Cercle Molière from Nov. 17 to 27 with pay-what-you-can ticket pricing. Tickets are available at sickandtwisted.ca.
Published in Volume 77, Number 10 of The Uniter (November 17, 2022)