Globe on Tour
This may be a fairy-tale-like saga with one of Shakespeare’s reunion happy endings but Pericles, Prince of Tyre, has a tough time as he roams the Mediterranean. It is a story that starts off with incest and people trying to poison him, sees the death of his wife, loss of his daughter, a virgin sold off to a brothel, a succession of heartbreak situations with only a few happy highlights before its final resolution.
Will Shakespeare (probably writing alongside George Wilkins) took much of the story from the telling of an ancient tale by earlier poet John Gower and he brings on Gower as a chorus to set the scene and fill in the gaps in the action. Natasha Magigi gives him personality and gusto, though perhaps with a little overemphasis on line breaks, in a production that is clearly spoken. In a cast of eight, she is the only one not playing multiple characters. Even Colin Campbell’s Pericles pops up as a pirate or a court gentleman between scenes charting his progress from young hero solving a riddle to win a princess to the sad and mourning monarch dressed in sackcloth.
Pursued by the King of Antioch’s poisoner, who is charged to silence the man who knows about that monarch’s incest, Pericles sets off on a new journey, taking aid to starving Tarsus. Set sail from there he is shipwrecked. Cast up at Pentapolis and rescued by fishermen, he competes with knights in combat and wins the heart of Princess Thaisa (Mogali Masuku) before, hearing his enemy is dead, they set out again for Tyre. It is a brief, happy respite before tragedy strikes again.
Thrashing and rolling bodies conjure storm and shipwreck but, as the scene moves from port to port, country to country, location is marked only by costume. There is little sense of an exotic place and numbers mean that the knightly combat at banqueting at Pentapolis are reduced to a couple of competitors with staves, but instead of spectacle director Brendan O’Hea gives us comedy with Mark Desebrock’s King Simonides indulging in delightful clowning.
When Evelyn Miller’s pure Marina is captured and sold by pirates, Andrius Gaućus and Beau Holland as the Pander and Bawd who buy her are garbed in glitter that outshine all other, their brightness making their bawdy humour also much more clownish.
As things move towards a happy resolution, the audience becomes complicit and the sentimental reconnections, though played sincerely, draw laughter too as there is recognition of Shakespeare or his fellow writer’s contrivance.
This play was very popular with Jacobean audiences and with a larger London company and more resources productions may have been quite showy, but this production, perhaps like original touring versions, puts the emphasis on entertainment, not being showy, and uses the close connection this theatre creates between stage and audience to great advantage.
Reviewer: Howard Loxton