Year Out Drama Company, in association with Stratford-upon-Avon College, present one of Shakespeare’s rarely performed plays. Containing storms, shipwreck, superstition, jousts, pirates, prostitutes and princesses, it’s perhaps a wonder that Pericles is not better known - this young company do well to condense so much action into 50 minutes, without losing a strong sense of narrative and alienating the audience.
The play opens and closes with music, creating a pleasant and uplifting sound with violin, guitar, mandolin, drum and accordion. Music, song and dance feature effectively throughout and never feel disjointed or forced. The actors make full use of their space, particularly when singing from the back of the auditorium and walking along the aisles. They produce a nice, strong, clear sound, filling the theatre.
This is very much Shakespeare done in the traditional fashion: the dialogue does not appear to have been modernised much - although, rather strangely, the flyer mentions ‘improved jokes’. I can appreciate that the jokes have been updated and that this makes them more accessible and therefore, more amusing. The chorus is rather helpful and amusing when explaining where the action is taking place and what exactly is happening. Marina’s reason for being freed from the brothel - she can knit an Aran sweater - is also nicely done and well-received by the audience. The recognition scene in which Pericles comes face to face with his lost daughter - ‘the finest of all the ‘recognition scenes’’, according to T.S. Eliot - is sensitively handled and free from mawkishness. Neither Pericles nor his daughter stands out as being more competent than their colleagues. This is an ensemble piece that relies on the actors refraining from grandstanding and supporting one another throughout. It’s an entertaining way to kick start your morning and might even tempt you into re-evaluating this undervalued play.