Review by Oli Burley
TRANSLATING one of William Shakespeare’s least-known works
into a high-brow circus may sound like an astounding feat, but
then Pericles, Prince of Tyre is a play woven
So all credit to Master of Play, Kathryn Hunter, whose bold approach
succeeds in bringing an undoubted wow-factor to the Globe’s
‘Season of the World and the Underworld’.
This modern-dress version sets out to analyse Pericles as a figure
in crisis, someone unnervingly attracted to the incest in King
Antioch’s court, and in so doing uses two actors to portray
the central figure.
Corin Redgrave makes his Globe debut as Pericles the elder, who
reviews his life by watching a younger version of him played,
somewhat distractingly with an Eastern European accent, by Robert
This dual perspective is fascinating, but blurred by the mesmerising
action going on around the plot in which Pericles is finally reunited
with daughter, Marina, and wife, Thaisa, both of whom he believed
The show is rather stolen by a troop of acrobats who swing and
twirl while suspended around the theatre, even hanging precariously
at times from the middle tier of the gallery.
Their aerial feats are undeniably
impressive and give a stomach-churning verve to the shipwreck
scenes, depicting at once the drowning sailors and the surging
But they are used to excess and consequently the play has more
than enough rope to hang itself.
This is a shame because Laura Rees’s moral Marina is keenly-felt,
while Redgrave is genuinely moving in the reunification scenes
with his family.
He is mostly accompanied on stage by narrator, Gower, played
by Patrice Naiambana as an outgoing African musician and healer
who at times steps outside the text to josh with the crowd.
His gregarious nature is good for cheap laughs but they are slightly
unwarranted – after all, that base is already covered by
pimp servant, Boult (Marcello Magni), and the Pentapolis fishermen.
Gower believes that if you want to see art, you should go to
a museum, rather than The Globe; but surely, if you want stand-up
or political satire, then you should really be at The Comedy Store.
This collision of styles at times threatens to blow the play
off tack, at others hits home with brilliant effect.
Tellingly, Pericles succeeds in winning Thaisa’s
heart with a simple song rather than the athletic prowess shown
by his love rivals – something that for all its adventure,
the production might do well to remember.