Madres de la Plaza de Mayo, the mothers of the disappeared
protesting in the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires, Argentina
No se acabarà nunca la burla?
Will this mockery ever end?
[Griselda Gambaro, Antígona Furiosa]
Griselda Gambaro’s Antígona Furiosa (Argentina, 1986) meets in many ways Luis Riaza’s Antígona Cerda (Spain, 1983). Both plays are written and performed only a few years after the end of authoritarian regimes in their respective countries (1975 in Spain and 1981 in Argentina) and both plays seem to reflect the philosophical and artistic turns of their time: namely deconstruction and postmodernism, in the sense that they do not simply present a theatrical action, but also trace a meta-commentary on the art of theatre itself. Both plays radically intervene in the number of actors, reducing them to three in Furiosa, and to two in Cerda. The ‘characters’, Antigone included, go in and out of the tragic world: they very often parodize themselves, and slip from one mask to the other.
More specifically, one of Gambaro’s characters is Corypheus: followed by his (often disobedient) attendant Antinous, he becomes Creon moving into a carcass, and alternates throughout the play between these two roles. Antigone, in this Argentinian play, also alternates between different roles: she mostly plays ‘herself’, but she also slips into Ismene, Aemon, and Tiresias. Furiosa enters the stage returning from the dead: she has already committed suicide by hanging herself, and she appears as a revenant who comes to re-enact the tragic story. Yet, this repetition is more of a farce: it fails to remain faithful to a supposed ‘original’ plot. In contrast with Sophocles’ Antigone, who is opposed to Creon using the rational ‘language of men’, Furiosa, as the name betrays, operates through a radically different voice. And, in a telling twist, not only she arrives on stage reciting verses of Ophelia’s ‘scene of madness’ (a key notion that traverses the play), not only she deliberately shows her erotic attraction for the dead who ‘caress her’ (los muertos me acarician), not only she comes to question the very existence of God (como creer a Dios todavía?), but also she admits that
In front of Creon, I was afraid. But he did not know. […]
Sir, My lord, I am afraid! […] Don’t punish me with death.
(Delante de Creonte, tuve miedo. Pero él no lo supo. […]
Señor, mi rey, tengo miedo! No me castigués con la muerte.)
Ismene-Creon-Aemon is a character in his/her own right in Riaza’s play, marking the different parts of the action. Riaza’s Ismene-Creon-Aemon is clearly male: hidden behind the curtains, he is asked by his sister to enter the stage as such: ‘Wake up, Ismene! It’s time to perform, brother…’ (Despierta Ismene! Es tiempo de actuar, hermano). This male Ismene is a young revolutionary man who, dressed as a typical hippie, declares: ‘Simply, I prefer to go on living’ (Sencillamente, prefiero continuar viviendo). When Antigone tells him that she is ‘full of freedom’ (rellena de libertad), Ismene asks: ‘and not mostly full of death?’ (y no será, más bien, de muerte?) Moving to Creon, he becomes a suave paternalist, treating Antigone in an almost tender way, only to be mistrusted by her: ‘Why don’t you make theatre?’ (Por qué no te dedicas al teatro?). He will end up becoming Aemon, whilst Antigone will take out of a box a puppet identical to herself, she will dress it up, and she will spit on it calling it: ‘Antigone… pig!’ (Antígona…. cerda!) At the end, in front of Ismene-Creon-Aemon who invites her to their nuptial banquet, she will address him successively as Oedipus, Polinices, and only at the end Aemon, comparing their love to the plague (una peste).