Dominic Dromgoole’s final season as Artistic Director of the Globe began auspiciously this week, as he brought Shakespeare’s late play Pericles to the magical Sam Wanamaker theatre.
It may not be the Bard’s best-known work; co-written by dramaturge, inn-keeper and occasional criminal George Wilkins, history has not been kind to Pericles – Elizabethan critic Ben Jonson called it ‘mouldy’, ‘stale’ and ‘nasty as a fish’. The play was rehabilitated by T.S. Eliot in the ’20s, though, and Dromgoole’s beautifully-staged production coaxes out the play’s charms, deftly dealing with its romance, tragicomedy and myth.
Pericles, the Prince of Tyre, played with strength - quite literally - by James Garnon, is a man lost at sea, plagued by loss and misfortune. From Turkish palaces fraught with peril to the shores of the ancient Lebanon and beyond, our hero faces tempest, traitors, pirates and resurrections.
There’s a lot going on in this play, which can feel episodic at times. But while the first two acts are a bit hollow (courtesy of our co-writer, George Wilkins) the tempest scene was pure Shakespeare. The staging and choreography of the storm were beautiful (watch out for the moving candelabras) and this scene was the heart and soul of the production, just as the sea is at the heart of the play. We felt Pericles' vulnerability to the ravages of elemental nature; man's struggle against life's misfortunes. He is no more than a voyager, powerless over his destiny, with no place to call home. A timely subject, perhaps.
From then, you are in for a merry evening indeed, even if at times strays into ‘banter’ territory. Perfectly supported by tiny and ethereal narrator Gower’s Sheila Reid the play reveals also young talents Dorothea Myer-Bennett (playing both beloved wife Thaisa and wicked Dyonisia), and Jessica Baglow (the demure Marina).
It is the first time the Sam Wanamaker is staging Shakespeare, since it opened in 2014. With Claire van Kampen’s music, Sian Williams’ choreography, candles and an angel descending from the sky, it makes you yearn for the next late plays to come.
|What||Pericles, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse review|
|Where||Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, 21 New Globe Walk, London, SE1 9DT | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Blackfriars (underground)|
19 Nov 15 – 21 Apr 16, 7:30 PM – 9:30 PM
|Price||£10 - £60|
|Website||Click here to book via The Globe|