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It's the simple things that help Pericles to triumph

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 around miracles.

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 Lucskay.

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 dead.

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 sea.

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.

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