So, here I am writing a bout a show I have seen after all.
By chance I got to see Pericles at the Lir Academy yesterday. I had not thought I would be able to, as I was working every evening. As my shift was supposed to end at 9 I thought it possible that I might catch the second half, but as there wasn't much to do for me, I was allowed to sit in for all of it. I had no expectations. Before the show I googled Pericles and found out that he had been a general and statesman 400 B.C. or so, but I had no idea what would make him a protagonist in a play. I am currently half way through Stephen Fry’s Heroes after having listened to Mythos, so I am very immersed in the world of Greek Myths and Pericles falls perfectly into the same age. Having discovered that the real Pericles was a sponsor of some of the original dramatic festivals I assumed that one of the Ancient Greek dramatists had written the play. A slip of memory, I realised even before the show had started that it was Shakespeare, which goes some way in explaining why I had not made more of an effort to get to see it (I am not a huge fan of the bard). There were things that did make me want to see it other than it being a Greek story: I had seen two sets from the set designer before, both of which had worked very well; I knew many of the technical crew on the production and wanted to see what they had done with the piece; and I was curious to see another show with this years third year actors. This was my situation at the beginning of the play.
The set was immediately intriguing: seemingly simple but revealing surprising elements as new sides were activated, used and dropped in. It made use of different levels from action flat on the floor to up in the gantry and everything in-between. A successful mixture of hiding and highlighting the fact it was a theatre by the use and revelation of light fixtures underlined the story and supported the immersion in it. The lighting itself was a success in my eyes as well. I was never under the impression that the faces were too dark or that actors had to move to find their light and at the same time the states were beautiful, seemingly simple and yet very effective. The use of moving heads and gobos gave it a dynamic of its own.
As I have not read the play text (yet) I can’t judge how accurately this adaptation has kept to it, but as it was the direction made it quite accessible, funny, and active. While some characters had long monologues it never felt static or stiff. Some speeches were indeed given in the most action-laden scenes. The fighting and choreography and the energy of the actors really carried the play along and the interruptions in which the actors stepped forward to describe the next steps of the hero’s journey allowed time to catch your breath.
As it was, I sat on the edge of my chair for most of the performance, holding my breath, chuckling to myself, laughing out loud, gasping in surprise or trying to hold back tears. I was so engaged with the story and the ingenuity of the effects that I wish it had gone on for another hour or so (Which for a 2.5h long Shakespeare play is high praise indeed, coming from me!).