Pericles, Prince of Tyre

Reviewer's rating

If you’ve never experienced the kind of performance akin to what Shakespeare must have encountered the first time he attended a play given by a troupe of strolling players in Stratford, then hurry on down to the Globe on Tour if it comes your way. It is an annual treat presented by the Globe that now not only tours around the UK but also travels to festivals and theatre abroad. If you miss it this year, watch out for it next year. I guarantee you will find the event fascinating and stimulating. The Globe actors play outdoors and I caught one of their plays in Oxford. Their touring, wooden portable stage of two levels was set up in the quadrangle of the Bodleian Library with bleachers for the audience. There was a cast of 8 players. The simplicity of this approach makes for vivid theatre while also giving focus to the actual text. That means that in Twelfth Night, Pericles Prince of Tyre and The Comedy of Errors, these eight versatile and young actors were having to take all the parts. In Pericles, Prince of Tyre, the play I attended, this amounts to 8 people playing 33 roles!

With the help of costumes, wigs and make-up to differentiate different characters, the cast did a totally splendid job in telling the story. Pericles, Prince of Tyre is one of the least performed plays in the canon. It didn’t make it into the First Folio and was most probably a collaboration of Shakespeare and George Wilkins (who also wrote a novel based on the play). Shakespeare is thought to have written most of the second half of the play. The first half is a set-up and a perfectly fascinating complex story illustrating the vagaries of Fate, the role of coincidence in life, and how we are at the mercy of storms and other natural events. It is also a play about genuine as against manipulative relationships, true love and deception. The resolution of the tale of Pericles involves a recognition scene that is one of the most moving and stage-worthy moments in theatre and then the play moves on to another recognition scene that is very affecting.

Given the constraints put on the small group of strolling players, Brendan O’Hea has directed a clean, active and very fine production of Pericles. Not only do the actors play many parts, but they also play instruments and open and close the show with very engaging performances and some memorable songs as they do the second half after the interval. They are the band throughout. Bill Barclay should be praised for the way music is used and also for the performances he gets out of his cast as Music Director. All the players were striking both as actors and as musicians. Natasha Magigi was a fine narrator, acting as Gower; and every actor deserves fine praise. I was struck by Colin Campell’s Pericles, which was especially moving in the second half; by Andrius Gaucas as Antiochus, Pander and even as a sailor of Tyre. Beau Holland was very believeable both as the wicked queen, Dionyza, and as the delightfully lewd and nasty Bawd. The cast did a fine job contrasting comedy, tragedy, romance and elements of almost magical realism. Mogali Masuku and Evelyn Miller were both memorable and moving as Thaisa and Marina respectively. Mark Desebrock as Simonides, Cleon and Lysimachus and Eric Sirakian as Bolt and Helicanus were just as strong as the others. And these are not all the roles that they played!

All in all, this annual touring initiative of the Globe Theatre has much to recommend it, not least the chance for talented actor-musicians to develop skills through a summer of touring.