Friday, 7 August 2009
Pericles, Bell Shakespeare, Aug 7, 2011 ****
By William Shakespeare, Bell Shakespeare
Playhouse, Victorian Arts Centre until August 7 to 22, 2009
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Published in Herald Sun
DIRECTOR AND ACTOR, JOHN BELL, has a special gift to illuminate the plays and language of Shakespeare for a modern audience. He enlightens us about their meaning, poetry, story, comedy, violence and mostly, to their humanity. May the Bard bless him.
Bell’s production of Pericles is dynamic, passionate, funny and inventively staged and designed. Bell makes it a spectacle, a pageant, a mythical, ocean-going journey with multi-cultural choreography (Gavin Robins), vivid costumes and evocative percussion and bamboo flute music by TaikOz. The stage design (Julie Lynch) echoes Japanese Noh Theatre, the backdrop bears an enormous, luminous moon to remind us of the goddess, Diana, and massive colourful drapes provide changes of location.
Any flaws in the structure, narrative and poetry of the text are explained by scholarly arguments that its first three acts were probably not written by Shakespeare. The narrative is episodic and lacks the usual classical unity of time, place and action of a Shakespeare although it embodies some of his themes.
Marcus Graham is magnetic and transformational as Pericles, the King of Tyre, who roams the oceans, suffering the storms of Neptune and the loss of his kingdom, wife and daughter. Graham makes sense of, and finds comedy and tragedy in the epic journey of this tormented man.
Mediaeval poet, John Gower wrote the legend upon which Pericles is based and Gower (John Gaden) is the narrator for the play. Gaden is wry and engaging as he delivers Gower’s galloping and often child-like rhymes. Gaden brings dignity and humour to his multiple roles as Gower, Cerimon, the wise healer and King Simonides.
The first half is a deliciously eclectic blend of choreographic storytelling, ethereal music, storms at sea, comedy and pageantry. Graham and Gaden shine and are supported by a large ensemble. Philip Dodd is strong as Pericles’ loyal lord, Helicanus.
After interval the raunchy, modern brothel-keepers entertain the audience. The most moving moment of the play is the reunion of Pericles and his long-lost daughter, Marina (Andrea Demetriades). Graham rivets the eye even when silent and shrouded in Pericles’ rags and Demetriades combines girlish coyness with ardent commitment.
My one quibble is that some actors’ voices sounded unsupported and lacked the technique to fill the theatre. This was particularly evident with Julie Goss as Dionyza and Lexi Freiman as Thaisa.
Pericles is a marvellous, fantastical trip and John Bell’s production captivates with its mix of contemporary with ancient and comedy with tragedy.
By Kate Herbert