Studio 77, Victoria University, 77 Fairlie Tce, Kelburn, Wellington

06/10/2009 - 10/10/2009

The Compleate Workes Project

Production Details

Pericles is a man at the mercy of the fates…

In a world of princesses, prostitutes, kings and kimonos, Victoria University of Wellington’s Theatre 303 students give new life to the bard’s fantastical tale of Pericles, finding inspiration in traditional Asian theatre forms.

Victoria’s senior undergraduate theatre students utilise a rich array of Chinese and Japanese performance conventions to transform Shakespeare’s Pericles into a visually stunning realm of cultural hybridity. In choosing this contribution to the Compleate Workes programme, Director Dr. Megan Evans found "the epic scope and fantastic events of the play well suited to staging inspired by the spectacle-driven Kabuki, the fluid movement of Jingju, the spiritual elegance of Noh, and good-hearted fun of Kyôgen."

Through physical training and academic study of traditional plays and staging techniques, the Theatre303 performers have worked to find cohesion between the Chinese form of Jingju, Japanese forms of Noh, Kyôgen, Kabuki and Bunraku and the Elizabethan text that creates the foundation of the production. Their study has been guided by Dr Evans’ previous training at the National Academy of Chinese Theatre Arts in Beijing and the University of Hawai’i at Mânoa Asian Theatre Programme.

The Japanese puppet theatre form of Bunraku influences the narration and dumbshows of the production, whilst the other forms inspire the acting styles, supporting musical structures, set and costume design of the different locations.

Victoria University presents the rarely performed Pericles in coalition with the Compleate Workes programme, offering a unique opportunity for Wellington audiences to encounter an intersection between several great world theatre traditions.
Pericles is a play full of love and loss, competition and deceit. With elaborate costumes and set, extensive stylisation and a commitment to transform the Shakespearean tradition with Asian convention, this show is one not to be missed.

Check out the you tube trailer or search for ‘Pericles Trailer’

What:  Theatre 303 Presents: Pericles
When:  Tuesday 6 – Saturday 10 October, 7.30pm
Where:  Studio 77, 77 Fairlie Terrace, Kelburn (Gate 10 of Victoria University)

Bookings: or 463 5359 

Oriental theatre traditions bring clarity to convoluted plot

Review by Helen Sims 08th Oct 2009

The students of the THEA303 course at Victoria University have obviously been very hard at work. Their Asian-theatre "inspired" production of Pericles is an entertaining and thoughtful production that harnesses elements of Chinese and Japanese traditional theatre forms without sacrificing the story.

As noted in the programme, it helps that Pericles is already a play that crosses boundaries. The young and impulsive Prince of Tyre has a restless soul – the beginning of the play finds him in the kingdom of Antioch, vying for the hand of the King’s daughter. After he solves the riddle that reveals the incestuous relationship between the King and his daughter, he employs his wits to flee back to Tyre.

However, Antioch’s assassins effectively drive him to roam over the sea, where he encounters a variety of friends and foes, relieves a famine in Tharsus, is shipwrecked on the Greek coast of Pentapolis and wins the hand of the beautiful Thaisa, only to appear to lose her in childbirth. And that’s just in the first half!

The plot of Pericles is somewhat convoluted, involving multiple settings and minor characters, and it is a credit to the cast and those involved in production design that most changes are clearly designated.  Simple but effective changes in set and costume avoid confusion, aided by the helpful guidance on Pericle’s progress provided by the 14th Century poet Gower (role split between Melissa Demasi and Valerie Tan).

Drums and other music also function to indicate scene changes and particularly momentous events.  The students themselves have taken on both production design and performance roles. Their commitment to the production is evident, although on opening night there were some dropped lines.

The heightened theatricality suits this swashbuckling tale with it archetypal characters. The stylized movements of Chinese Jingju suit the paragons of female virtue, Thaisa (Elle Wootton) and Marina (Becky Wilson).  They contrast nicely to the Kabuki infused language and poses of the bullish Pericles (William Moffatt). Japanese bunraku (puppet theatre) is utilized to powerful effect in the storm scene and clowning brings hilarity to the roles of the fishermen and the brothel dwellers. 

Yet director Megan Evans and dramaturg Jacob Ennis have wisely recognised that both actors and audience are not entirely familiar with the Asian theatre conventions and have kept European realism as the play’s home. The effect is that the audience experiences at once a version of this play that is refreshingly different and yet also comfortably familiar in its style.  This is not your run of the mill student production.
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