Pericles - Review
Sam Wanamker Playhouse
Shakespeare's Pericles was co-authored with George Wilkins around 1607-1608 & only appeared in Quarto form (in 1609) and not in the famous First Folio f Shakeapeare's complete works (1623).
It is a rarely performed piece, although it deals with similar issues to Shakespere's other late plays, loss, the relationship of a Father and Daughter & exile to name a few. It's great to see the Globe stage it in their indoor theatre (The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse) as it is likely to have been performed at The Blackfriars Theatre originally. (The SWP is based on the Blackfriars)
The play itself in my view is Shakespeare's most "Brechtian" with its epic nature, jumping from one country to the next across time as the famous poet John Gower, a contemporary of Chaucer, narrates us through the different Acts & stories told in this play. The first "half" really focuses on Pericles Prince of Tyre and in the second half we follow his lost daughter Marina years later which eventually lands us back with Pericles at the end.
It isn't Shakeapeare's strongest work but The Globe has made a noble attempt at it here but sadly every time I have been in the SWP I have (for some reason) always been in the stage right seating block and everything I have seen there seems to favour being staged upstage right. Even in (the restricted) circle you can see 60-70% of the stage, but when you feel that for 2:55mins you have only been able to see 40% of the action then it is not good. It's a beautiful space but this problem constantly arises in the SWP where a lot is missed. It also makes it harder when (as you stare at the other side of the audience unable to see anything) you can't even hear certain parts of the play either, it's a real shame.
I enjoyed certain parts of this production but there seemed to be a tendency at times in the denouement to put comedy in places that it wasn't needed, it's great to add in comic moments to help lighten the mood (particularly in such a "heavy" play) but at times I felt that beautiful moments were lost due to the choice of going for a laugh instead - this is not a "wrong" thing to do, it just simply didn't suit, what I felt, to be perhaps better for certain moments. The comic choices did make sense and I understand why they were done when they were, but I believe more could have been gained from these touching final scenes.
I didn't hear much and couldn't see any of the final moments and that's a real shame as it is a hard space to work and a tough play to do as it doesn't flow as seemlessly or easily as some of Shakespeare's other plays and George Wilkins' career (the co-writer) in playwriting was very short indeed, this says something more about why this play is not staged that often. It's Worth a look if you haven't seen the play before, especially to see it in a space that is designed like the one it would have possibly been performed in, but do make sure you are in the pit on the front row and that you're prepared to pay for that necessity.