Périclès, Prince de Tyr
Silk Street Theatre, Barbican
Reviewed – 9th April 2018
“the French ensemble surge through the action at an almighty speed”
Pericles, Prince of Tyre is one of Shakespeare’s plays that often gets overlooked. Having been left out of the First Folio, perhaps due to its shoddy textual structure, or for the fact it was written in collaboration (George Wilkins is said to have written the first two acts), certainly makes it one of the Bard’s most unfamiliar, and strangest, works. The world-renowned Cheek By Jowl, return to the UK with their French offshoot of the company, bringing a fresh and imaginative interpretation of the seafaring story of Pericles. The frenzied and chaotic tale, that jumps from Mediterranean coastline to coastline is given much needed clarity and reasoning by this French-speaking production.
Set entirely within the aqua-blue walls of a single hospital room, Director Declan Donnellan turns the tempestuous scenes of shipwrecks, brothels, murders, and tournaments, into the feverish dreams of a sick Pericles. Through his hallucinated adventures, doctors and hospital staff transfigure into the fisherman, kidnappers, or, royalty that are required to play out the unfortunate events that Pericles encounters from the original text. The somewhat ludicrous plotlines, particularly with wife Thaisa and daughter Marina, seem marginally more plausible within this production, with the given context of it being a dream. We all know how bizarre dreams can be!
By Donnellan gutting fair chunks of the play, especially the dense and wordy speeches written by Wilkins, the French ensemble surge through the action at an almighty speed. This condensed version coming in at an hour and forty minutes seems much more palatable. This does not mean we lose any emotional gravitas. The hyperventilating pace finds peaks and troughs, with the plays heart rate slowing down almost to a halt for the climatic reunion of Pericles and Marina. By far one of Shakespeare’s most moving scenes, Christophe Grégoire, as Pericles, demonstrates the truthful flood of emotions felt by a father with a long-lost child. A scene that certainly tugs on the old heartstrings.
It is the first time Cheek By Jowl has produced Shakespeare in the French language and it works extremely well with Pericles. Speedily reading the surtitles that are spat out at a tremendous rate only adds to the already sea-sickening, yet thrilling, speed of proceedings. The whole cast give praiseworthy turns, using strenuous physicality to rip through the ever-changing scenes. This whirlwind of a play certainly leaves you feeling windswept, if not a little giddy.
Reviewed by Phoebe Cole
Photography by Patrick Baldwin
Périclès, Prince de Tyr
Silk Street Theatre, Barbican until 21st April