Hayley Atwell Becomes Antigone for ‘The Oedipus Plays’

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Boy, this brings me back. I remember being assigned to read Sophocles during 9th grade English and thinking, “Oh, man, what the heck is this? A play from Ancient Greece? Bo-ring!”

Was I ever wrong. Even as a jaded, way-too-cool-for-school teenager, I fell hard for Sophocles’s three Theban plays: Oedipus the King (also known as Oedipus Rex), Oedipus at Colonus, and Antigone. Then and now, the strength of the storytelling and the power of the story overwhelmed me. I read each play multiple times – and when you’re in 9th grade, that’s really saying something!

Together, the three plays comprise one of the landmarks of not only Western theater but also literature. Aristotle said as much, and that reputation has only been solidified over the past 2,500 years. They deal with themes of familial duty, civil disobedience, free will, natural law, and – yes – they are the source of Freud’s so-called Oedipus Complex.

If you’re a fan of the plays or have never read them before, then do I have a treat for you. Out today from Audible is a brand-new production of The Oedipus Plays, starring Jamie Glover as Oedipus and Hayley Atwell as Antigone. The plays benefit from a phenomenal production with stellar actors, a modern translation (by Ian Johnston), and specially commissioned new music to support the story. It also stars Julian Glover (Game of Thrones, Empire Strikes Back) and Samantha Bond (Downton Abbey).

So what compelled Atwell (Agent Carter) into the studio for this project?

“I like working in the medium, just with my voice, because I don’t have to worry about my facial expressions or gestures – I can do whatever my body needs to do to free up my voice. So it feels like a very specific medium and that to me is great. Working in a sound studio is an environment that I welcome. I love the ensemble of actors and specifically classical actors. My background is classical theatre and that for me is where I got a sense of how ‘family’ can exist in the theatre. When you are part of an acting community as we have been during these days we have been recording the Theban plays, you also realize you are part of a tradition that has been passed down, and hopefully we will continue to pass it down to the next generation. It is a way also of keeping these texts alive. There is a magic when I walk into the sound studio and we are all here in our own clothes eating sandwiches and drinking coffee, knowing that we are just here to serve the text. That’s it. We are servants of the text. In this moment, what we have is the opportunity to tell a wonderful story together.”

The Oedipus Plays is available now from Audible. Take a listen to an exclusive excerpt below…


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