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Blotto Theatre present

 

Pericles, Prince of Tyre

 

by William Shakespeare

 

Edited by Blotto Theatre

 

Directed by Benjamin Henson

 

Greenwich Playhouse

 

24 February-22 March 2009


 

 

y Couzen

A review by Helena Rampley for EXTRA! EXTRA!

 

Described by Walter Cohen as being ‘on paper…the play from hell’, the tumultuous Pericles hurls many cruel blows of fate against its hero, Prince Pericles.  Having unearthed a dark secret about King Antiochus, he flees his native Tyre and goes to sea.  His adventure sees him meet and fall in love with Thaisa, the Princess of Pentapolis, and together they conceive a daughter, Marina.  Savagely torn away from one another by the seas, Pericles lives a solitary life for many years, until the forces of destiny pull the family back towards each other. 

Rather than shying away from the inherent chaos of the plot, characterisation and even authorship of Pericles, this production from the fledgling Blotto Theatre company embraced every complexity and worked it to its advantage.  Undaunted by the extensive list of dramatic personae, the cast of three (augmented by a few sock puppets) played more than fifteen characters between them.  Multi-roles were defined by accent, physicality and costume, all of which were clearly and entertainingly differentiated.  Ben Hadley in particular exhibited a baffling versatility of character and emotion, often switching between elation and tears, seamlessly and utterly convincingly. 

The lack of psychological complexity within some of the character writing was well suited to the Epic approach taken by the company. This enabled aspects of gestic acting to be used, and vibrant, instantly accessible characters to be created.  Never invasive but at all times adept, the music and song provided by the cast, especially the mandolin playing by Philippa Palmer, added to the sea-faring atmosphere. 

The integration of set and costume was flawless.  The small studio theatre was entwined with rope, and made to heave and bustle, despite the many notably empty seats.  The entire space was used to full effect, even the fire exit curtains, and absolutely nothing was present that did not fulfil several different purposes within the disparate settings of onboard ship, a desert isle and a brothel.  Of particular note within Sorrell Moore’s design was a large cloth comprised of many coloured patches.  This was used, amongst other things, as a toga, a drape for the brothel, and sewing for one of the sailors.  The intricate logistics and design of this piece, in order to function so successfully in so many ways, was really remarkable.

The collaborative effort of cast, director and designer was evident in the way props and set were not only commanded, but made to seem absurd and also emotive by turns.  Puppets of knights constructed out of mops and metal hats showed the ludicrousness of the court, and the maniacal, self-absorbed nature of the King Simonides.  Pericles’ head dress made from fishing net was simultaneously ridiculous and poignant, in its evocation of the despair he is driven to by his separation from his family.  The production was in no way curbed by the small scale theatre.  Ingenious use of a magnetic fishing game took the place of the jousting context, which otherwise would have been difficult and clumsy to stage.

The boundless energy of this intrepid cast made the hour and forty five minutes fly by.  The incredible cohesion between very varied styles - a blend of physical theatre with naturalistic acting - gave the production fluidity, plausibility and above all made it enjoyable throughout.  Why would anyone ever stage Pericles with more than three actors?  The only downside was that this production was unable to gain anything like the full house it really deserved.
           

Tickets £12/£10
Greenwich Playhouse, Greenwich Station Forecourt, 189 Greenwich High Road, London SE10 8JA

www.galleontheatre.co.uk
Box office: 0208 858 9256

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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