Tyre escaped the devastation of the explosion at the docks in Lebanon’s capital Beirut resulting death, destruction and upheaval in the East Mediterranean country this August.
But the events in the jointly penned play by Shakespeare and possibly George Wilkins are no less dramatic since they involve incest, death, shipwrecks, brothels and famine. Running at over two hours the drama is aimed at the purists and those with an interest in Jacobean theatre and how it interpreted the Classical World. And it’s a showcase for the students at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.
Slashing much of the original script this new production written by Andrew Hilton and Dominic Power, and directed by Aaron Parsons puts pace into a complex story of Pericles and his journeys. Briefly the adventurer goes on the run from the sadistic Antiochus after he twigs the king is sleeping with his daughter. He flees to another city where he marries the daughter of the ruler, before further twists in the convoluted plot in the story sees him eventually (spoiler alert) reunited with his wife and daughter.
A filmed play is a very different audience experience as the atmosphere created by live theatre evaporates in the lens of the video camera. Without the techniques of cinema in which each sequence can be filmed many times and from different angles the drama inevitably suffers. However the creative team led by Dave Taylor along with Tim Newton plus camera operators Richard Maxwell, Maya Barker and Elkie McCrimmon, did their best to keep the attention of the viewer using a variety of shots from tracking to close ups and to wider angles to reveal the action. An art form in itself the film blended (together with the work of sound editor Ollie Wareham) together seamlessly at the Redgrave Theatre in Bristol to create a production that students of the play will find invaluable.
It’s a classical production with one very 2020 innovation. I had the inclusion in the team behind the show of a Covid officer in Hebe Perry who must have influenced the design as there were several hand washing and mask wearing moments. With social distancing in both rehearsals and performance, inevitably there is a feeling of distancing in the production with the usual intimacy between actors missing. Considering all the burdens placed on live theatre by the Covid-19 regulations it is something of a minor miracle that the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School’s Pericles has been staged at all.
Presented in effectively a black box there are few props or changes of scenery. It allows the viewer to concentrate on the actors and the classical and colourful costumes (Sophia Chan and Summer York) which help to define their characters.
The titular character Pericles is played by two actors with the role split between a tousled hair Lewis McDonald in part one and a stern looking Kamil Borowski in part two as the older Pericles with both giving passion and voice to the wronged protagonist. Pericles is put through the mixer and both actors gave full voice to his emotions in this romance told in part by John Gower (Jason Keller). Pericles’ love interest Thaisa is played by a seductive Christine Fang and his lost daughter Marina by an on form Alexandra Nedved.
Highlights included some beautiful Classic Greek inspired dancing with a terrific sequence from the men in Pentapolis all choreographed by Jonathan Howell and also when Pericles accompanies the singing of Kat Reeves.
Maev Lowe as Simonida, the good Queen of Pentapolis, is commanding in her exchanges with Pericles giving an air of executive power and matronly protectiveness to her daughter Thaisa.
The fishers who help Pericles are enjoyably played in a rustic way by James Austin and Kirsten Helen Hansen while Devante Lawrence as Lysimachus, Laura Bernas as Calliope, Lynn Favin as Leonine and Siobhan Galpin as Dionyza complete an impressive cast of overseas students studying for a Masters in Fine Arts in acting at the school.
The play is on YouTube from September 22, 2020, for approximately two weeks.
The play can be viewed online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HdwjCXRl2G8
For more about Bristol Old Vic Theatre School visit https://www.oldvic.ac.uk/
For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk
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