Iisa Ilona Jantti
master of play
It saddens me to say it but the Globe’s new modern practices production of Pericles is a mess on a grand scale. The complexities of the characters are ruined and so much meaning is lost through a charade of circus tricks and pointless multicultural touches.
Without a synopsis, this production is completely unfathomable to the unitiated. Pericles should show a ruler torn apart by tragedy, a man left with nothing, blaming the Gods for his plight. More of a problem play than a comedy, there is much ambiguity within the text which contains moments of both high drama and hilarity.
Kathryn Hunter’s production loses all of this. For a start, many of the performances are just not up to scratch, in particular that of Robert Lucskay, whose Pericles the Younger comes across as a Slovakian reincarnation of Frank Spencer. His speech is indeterminable and his attempt at dramatic scenes embarrassing.
Another major issue is the show’s use of circus performers with only marginal acting talent. These are people capable of performing awe-inspiring physical stunts but unfortunately they pronounce their lines with little conviction or meaning.
Most notably at fault here is Matt Costain, strutting annoyingly around the stage like a cockerel and overplaying every line he is given.
The attempts at contemporary context and humour are flat, cliched and verge on the offensive. Shakespeare’s commentary upon incest and the nods to paedophilia are used too lightly – the references to Michael Jackson aren’t funny, they’re boring, predictable.
Simplicity – or the lack of it – is very much the issue here. There’s just too much going on. The virtue of paring things down has proven itself greatly in several notable productions this year – in the Oxford Stage Company revival of The Quare Fellow and in Aristocrats at the National – Pericles hurtles in the opposite direction, to its detriment.
Not everything is quite so disappointing. John McEnery, as Pericles the Elder, does bring to this production a necessary depth. He at least has moments of triumph as he begs the Gods for mercy and as he reawakens with new hope in the play’s final scenes.
Strength in this production also comes through Hilary Tones as the admirable Thaisa and the abhorrent Dionyza. Laura Rees too adds many important layers to the character of Marina, playing her as a strong and genuinely virtuous young woman emerging from tragedy and the unknown.
Although the cause of much of this production’s weakness in his capacity as the Director of Physical Play, Marcello Magni proves himself to be a strong, versatile and committed performer. His movement on stage is perhaps distracting but nonetheless brilliant and his skills as an actor are equally commendable.
This is a production full of failings, where only a few performances stand out from the mediocrity. The final scenes of the play are touching, but there is no real sense that we have travelled with these characters.
Though hampered by the loss of its original star, after Corin Redgrave was taken ill early in the run, it’s difficult to see how even his presence in the cast could have saved this unfortunate show from itself.