This is a slight apologia of a review of Pericles – this is the first time ever I have very little recollection of the production, and no contemporaneous notes to carry me through. No disrespect meant to the cast – I do recall an engaging and thought-provoking production – and rest assured I am more assiduous in my note-taking (as well as more determined to write things up in a timely fashion).
So this production was part of the Globe on Tour/Audience decides scheme, where a troupe prepares three plays and tours the country, and in most places the audience chose on which of three they want to see* – I picked an early night when I was guaranteed to get the play I wanted…
Having seen Pericles before, albeit in an international rendition, I could at least follow the vast amounts of plot there is as Pericles (and his daughter) get blown around the Mediterranean: from incestuous Antioch to religious Ephesus, with very little time in Tyre itself…
Colin Campbell was an energetic Prince but a mild one.** You could see how his open manners led him to make friends wherever he went. In fact that was the main thing that struck me about the whole play – Pericles is met with kindness wherever he goes (after Antiochus at least) – Cleon and Dionyza welcoming him (or at least his corn) with open arms, Mark Desebrock’s incredibly OTT Simonides absolutely delighted to give up his daughter, loyal Helicanus happy to run whatever country for however long Pericles needs him to. Even the fishermen find his armour and send him off to get rich without any hint of bitterness.
By contrast, poor blameless Marina (who doesn’t ask to go anywhere) is met with the worst possible treatment – her father palms her off on some people he met once, who plot to murder her because she is prettier than their daughter, and she is only saved by passing pirates who sell her to her brothel, who try to force her into giving up her virginity and she is rescued only by the governor who comes to claim her virginity and ends up giving her money but not actually, you know, removing her from the brothel she clearly doesn’t want to be in.*** Horrific, and horrifically relevant still – it’s not as if sex trafficking is the stuff of fairytale. No wonder Viola decided to be a man when she came to Illyria.
Evelyn Miller managed to pull off the paragon that is Marina – alive to the awfulness of her position, but never overwhelmed by it. Mogali Masuku played Thaisa (in the main) and I longed for more of her stately grace. The three-way reunion at the end was almost overwhelming.
The setting was nothing recognisable, but still beautifully done – with African wax prints, feathers, and colours managing to distinguish place and people> The latter being incredibly important given 8 people played 34 characters – which may also explain why it all seemed such a whirl! I had some sympathy with Pericles being completely overwhelmed by all the action, especially since he didn’t have Natasha Magigi as Gower masterfully narrating the action. The music, as I have come to expect from the Globe, was also great (Marina apparently plays the trombone, as well as all her other talents).
And that’s all I remember. More than I thought I did, and more than enough to get pure outraged on Marina’s behalf all over again.
* I always wonder about how the voting is conducted and whether it would ever be rigged – if, for example, the troupe had done Twelfth Night for the last twelve nights and really wanted to do A Comedy of Errors as a change!
** The action does rely on him literally never stopping in any one place long enough to do anything.
*** And I have massive issues with her marrying said governor in the end. Almost as bad as Claudio and Hero.