PERICLES PRINCE OF TYRE
01/03/2014 - 22/03/2014
Lesser known, yet one of his most successful works, Shakespeare’s fantastic tale of voyages, piracy, death-defying escapes, captivity and family lost and found, PERICLES, PRINCE OF TYRE, marks the 2014 season of the Auckland Summer Shakespeare, to be performed once again on the Old Arts Plaza from February 28th.
A fitting follow up to 2013’s season of King Lear, the tragic tale of a king and his daughters, Pericles follows a young prince shipwrecked, having run from death, as he fights for the love of his princess he will lose on the very sea that has marooned him. The woes, triumphs and miseries of his story are expressed in some of Shakespeare’s most moving and eloquent language.
Shakespeare’s play has been a puzzle over the years since his death. It is not clear why it was omitted from the 1623 Folio collection of his plays. Perhaps it was because the play was so very successful in print by itself, or perhaps because it was a collaboration – though with whom is still a matter of debate. Though included in later editions, it also suffered from the confused state of parts of the script. Nevertheless, the play has always been a popular one with audiences when staged, with its simple story built in vivid emotional scenes, at once beguilingly straightforward and powerfully direct.
The Auckland Summer Shakespeare production will embrace the simplicity of this tale of adventure and misadventure in the engaging and contemporary idiom of an energetic young company. Leading in song and story, a live band will play music, covering the likes of The Black Keys, Macklemore and The White Stripes. Pimps and madams, denizens of the brothel in which the play’s young heroine finds herself trapped, will frequent the arena, while intermission gives budding sportspeople a chance to play cricket with three cheeky fishermen. It will be a voyage on the sea of story-telling like few others!
Geoff Allen, well known locally from his work with Galatea productions, takes the director’s chair in 2014. His previous Shakespeare work includes directing Romeo and Juliet and, most recently, producing Hamlet at the Musgrove Theatre. He has also worked at the Auckland Fringe (Mrs. Van Gogh, 2013) and on George Bernard Shaw (Pygmalion, 2010).
Featuring the acting talents of Albert Walker, Suzy Sampson, Kathryn Owens, Caleb Wells and Gina Timberlake, Auckland Summer Shakespeare will bring to its 2014 audiences the excitement and dramatic colour of a play that has been called Shakespeare’s version of The Odyssey.
Preview: 28th February
1st – 22nd March 2014, 7.30pm
Old Arts Plaza, The University of Auckland
Adults $30, Group (10+) $25, Students $19
Tickets on sale now from The Maidment Theatre
www.maidment.auckland.ac.nz or 09 308 238309 308 2383
2hrs 45mins, incl. interval
Shakespeare Strikes Back
Review by James Wenley 12th Mar 2014
The notion, for a Shakespearean nerd such as I am, to attend a Shakespeare play that I had never read or seen before was a thrilling one. It’s like getting a new Star Wars movie or a new George R.R Martin novel, except this time its 400 or so years later. There was something rather romantic and pure about the idea, to see how much understanding and dramatic fulfilment I could take from a previously unfamiliar Shakespearean text.
That play is Pericles, Prince of Tyre (possibly a collaboration with George Wilkins), one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays in the Jacobean period, but if I can explain my leaky hole in my knowledge of the Shakespearean canon, the producers of the University of Auckland’s Summer Shakespeare season reckon that this is the first time the play has been performed in Auckland. Turns out Pericles was a thrilling production, both for its novelty, but also director Geoff Allen’s innovations. [More]
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Plenty to enjoy
Review by Nik Smythe 02nd Mar 2014
The amplified eclectic musical refrains of the five-piece band in the gazebo to the left, including vintage and contemporary pop songs and classic show-tunes, can be heard from the ticketing/bar tent round the corner to feed our anticipation.
On entering the theatre space, the magnificently makeshift set – as might be constructed from the salvaged remnants of a shipwreck – looms before us, complete with severed heads stuck forebodingly on poles in exemplary barbarous-monarch fashion. Flocks of fisher-folk in modern-day yellow rubbers and buxom Victorian-style strumpets rove about cracking yarns and exhibiting various forms of cheek as the audience find their place.
Following a scene-setting introductory decapitation, Caleb Wells steps up to narrate the ensuing mighty legend of the trials and redemption of a heartbroken warrior king. Dressed part 20th century journalist (beige trenchcoat, Tinitin quiff), part pop-star (slick suit pants, bling necklace), this is in supposed fact 14th century poet John Gower, the original British author of said epic tale.
Pericles is a bit of an odd sample from the Auld Bard’s renowned canon. It plays like a tragedy, as indeed one expects the works based on historic figures to be, but is technically a comedy given (spoiler alert) the redemptive conclusion and the fact that the titular character yet lives at the final curtain. Certainly director Geoff Allen has made use of many opportunities for humour, largely through the antics of the bawdy strumpets and fisher-folk, delivering essential comic relief within an imperatively earnest tale of politics, murder, heartbreak and displacement.
There is some debate about Shakespeare’s sole authorship, with much agreement among scholars and editors that approximately half the play was written by a local innkeeper of questionable repute, one George Wilkins. Perhaps this is why the play was omitted from earlier publications of the Complete Works, although it is invariably included in modern editions. The time period of the story itself is apparently between 1500 and 2000 years before Gower.
Young recent Unitec graduate Albert Walker takes on the challenging heroic title role, the proud and honourable Prince, and later King Pericles whose fate is set in motion as he escapes the evil king’s intense, Lara-Croft-like military assassin Thaliard (T-Ann Manora). Walker has the physical capability for the role, but his tendency to whine during his abundant proclamatory speeches feels less suited to a noble fellow of such upstanding moral virtue.
There are notable turns among the supporting cast. Local Shakespeare veteran Patrick Graham brings his considerable presence and grasp of the language to his dual despicable roles as Antiochus, and the brothel pander (pimp). As his reprehensible associate the outrageous Bawd, Gina Timberlake makes a considerable meal of her comparatively small part, looking, moving and shrieking like a pint-sized cockney female Marilyn Manson.
Suzy Sampson plays another of several gender-reversed characters, Simonides, Queen of Pentapolis and mother of Pericles’ beloved Thaisa (Kelly Gilbride) with forthright dignity as befits her royal station. Regan Crummer’s blustery fisherman is a standout among the clusters of lower classes.
Not to undermine the valiant efforts of many unmentioned members of the 24-strong cast, as a team they work commendably to drive the complex and far-reaching saga through the director’s somewhat convoluted vision. The energy is more assured during comedy and action-based scenes, while wont to drag at times through some of the more expositional stretches. Some details included in this review had to be procured by online research, having been less than clearly imparted on the night.
In all fairness, on opening night the cast were seriously hampered by the untimely and prolonged intrusion of a naval helicopter on manoeuvres that all but obliterated the pivotal scene wherein Pericles’ prodigal daughter Marina (Kathryn Owens) – the secret other protagonist in this tale – appeals to the inner virtue of would-be scoundrel Lysimachus (Dominic De Souza).
The recycled salvage look of Allen’s set echoes Company of Giants’ Odyssey, and indeed the story itself covers similar time frames and distances. While not as supernatural or bloodthirsty as the Homeric legend, what Pericles and his family endure is nonetheless immense.
In general the band fleshes out the theatrics with admirable prowess. Musical director Kay Shacklock and her accomplished quartet are fully involved with the action, to the point where characters directly address them, sometimes threateningly. Some of the soundtrack choices are inspired, e.g. the aptly appointed chorus riff from recent ironic hip-hop classic Thrift Shop, and the undeniably entertaining Rhythm Stick showpiece as brazenly executed by the Brothel personnel. Others feel a bit more forced and lacking the desired impact, in particular the celebratory chorus number near the end seems to flatten the mood rather than further uplift it.
The extravagant, essentially burlesque frilly-lace-and-fishnets, as sported by the brothel workers and their outrageous Bawd, are a visual highlight within Troy Garton’s equally – if not more – eclectic wardrobe design. The costumes incorporate the same strata of social echelons as the dramatis personae: scruffy, starving peasants, practically attired sailors, neatly modest servants and elegant nobility, et al.
Beren Allen’s perfunctory lighting doesn’t particularly add any more dimensions to the proceedings, though with everything going on it hardly needs to. Half his work is done for him anyway: it’s always quite magical seeing dusk and darkness descend in the course of an outdoor play.
So while the whole ambitious production may not fully succeed on every one of its numerous levels, there’s plenty to enjoy within the remarkable efforts of the company, and their clear commitment to the legacy of the country’s longest-running annual theatre tradition.
What’s more, it’s a unique opportunity to see a large-scale rendering of Pericles, and who knows when we’ll get another.
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