Pale Sister

Colm Tóibín


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The Gallery Press
31 October 2019
ISBN: 9781911337782
48 pages

From the publisher

Pale Sister was first produced by Audible and the Gate Theatre and had its World Première onstage at the Gate Theatre, Dublin, on 31 October 2019.

I can hear my sister laugh at the thought of truth.

Colm Tóibín’s prodigious oeuvre has made him one of the most fêted of contemporary writers. His engrossing version of Sophocles’ Antigone (c.442 bc) approaches its subject from the sister’s perspective. It includes those staples of Greek drama — pity and terror — and adds to current debates about gender and power, about abusive power and about silence and speech. ‘My interest in writing Pale Sister was to explore areas in public life and private conscience that remain indistinct. When I started the play, when Lisa Dwan and I began to work out its moral and political contours, I did not know what Ismene would do. I merely knew she would speak.’ This is her voice, the voice of a witness.

Colm Tóibín’s version of the Greek tragedy Antigone draws out a secondary character from shadows and silence. The “pale sister” is Ismene who warns her sibling Antigone against defying the law of Thebes and its ruler, their uncle Creon. When Antigone is condemned to death for her intransigence, Ismene tries to share her punishment. Instead, she becomes a reluctant survivor, a witness to the destruction of her cursed family, the children of Oedipus. — The Guardian