The best theatre shows to see this week
Lisa Dwan and Colm Tóibín rework Antigone by giving voice to overshadowed sister Ismene
Lisa Dawn in Pale Sister. Photograph: Ros Kavanagh
It might come as a surprise to hear that Lisa Dwan would resist playing a leading role. But that, in a way, is the result of the actor’s collaboration with writer Colm Tóibín, revisiting the story of Antigone from the perspective of her overshadowed sister, Ismene.
A supporting character throughout Sophocles’ Oedipus trilogy, you can see why Ismene has never been titular. Her family loyalty is undoubted, but not extraordinary. Her emotions and actions are not fire-forged like Antigone’s. What does it say that her bravest action is to pretend to have been an accomplice in the burial of her brother, to share her sister’s Antigone’s punishment? (And then not to get it?)
If Antigone seems more like a woman of our times, it is because she always has been, revised in versions from Sophocles to Anouilh to Heaney. Does that make it stranger, against the defiance and activism of young women such as Malala Yousafzai, Emma Gonzalez and Greta Thunberg, that Tóibín observes the story through the eyes of a “pale sister”?
Or will Ismene’s perspective, dutiful but cautious, and so much closer to our own, only serve to make the protagonist more vivid? Co-produced with Audible, the podcast and audio platform, this short Gate production gives her a voice. It’s time to hear her out.
Draíocht, Blanchardstown Nov 2, 8pm; touring until November 31st solsticeartscentre.ie
On her 35th birthday, after a night of heavy celebration, the actor and comedian Joanne Ryan woke up nursing a heavy concern: was it time to have a baby? Or, a more sobering thought, had she already left it too late?
The fertility anxiety of Ryan’s solo show, Eggsistentialism, which began at the Dublin Fringe Festival in 2016 and has since travelled to Edinburgh and Australia, isn’t confined to one person. Birth rates are falling globally, while people start families in later life and fertility issues become wider spread.
One oft-quoted statistic about ageing populations and falling replenishment is that more nappies are now sold in Japan for adults than babies. Last year Ireland saw the lowest number of births on record.
Ryan’s show puts things in engagingly personal terms. Reading that 10,000 of a woman’s eggs die every month, she reflects, “I’ll be lucky if I’ve enough to make an omelette,” while the voice of her own mother interjects wry commentary at intervals. But she also places it within a political context, where the nation’s dismal history on reproductive rights is recapitulated in video projections.
The journey comes with comic delivery, while a national tour that includes parent-and-child friendly performances is undertaken with sympathy too. Otherwise an entertainment about fertility struggle might be harder to conceive.