Pericles: Shakespeare’s finest fairytale…

From Richard Brown, director…

As we start putting together our summer production in earnest, I wanted to share some thoughts on the play with our audience, many of whom may not be familiar with Pericles.

Why did I choose PERICLES as the play to perform in 2017? Well, I bet many (most?) of you would know the outline story of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth, Romeo & Juliet and more of the popular plays, but probably very few of you know much about Pericles. If the allusion to some dry old ancient Greek politician stays your hand in buying tickets, let me immediately say it has absolutely nothing to do with the classical figure of Pericles whatsoever. It is a fairly unique play for Shakespeare, in the style we call Romance and being a wonderful adventure, recounting the voyages of Pericles around the Mediterranean as he loses, finds and loses love again, all to be resolved in a glorious re-uniting at the end.

You may think so why is it so rarely performed? Well, a few things to say here: at the end of Shakespeare’s career and after his death, Pericles continued to be the most popular of his plays, the one that audiences clamoured for. It was chosen by the RSC as the perfect vehicle for a professional/amateur collaboration in 2012 and appeared at the Sam Wannamaker Theatre in the Globe complex quite recently. This year not only are we performing it, but so are our friends in the RSC Open Stages programme, The Cotswold Archadians. Also Michael Corbidge, head of text and voice at the RSC travels from seeing our production in July straight to Paris to direct it in French. Pericles is most definitely back on the map.

It is a play that was perhaps difficult to stage in past years when the style of theatre was very different to today (or indeed to Shakespeare’s own time). However, the rather cinematic course of events, free from long speeches and dotted with new places and bizarre characters, is just the job for modern productions. It is a play you could easily imagine on television, and if the Disney Corporation could turn back time and ask Mr Shakespeare for a film script, Pericles would have been the choice. It has evil kings, wicked queens, plaintive heroines, homespun fishwives, flashy knights, whores, healers, pirates, sailors in storms, citizens in famine, a goddess, to name but some.

Or, to put it another way, this play, working very much like a fairy tale or even at time a pantomime, is unadulterated fun.

To not do it at SatG would be such a great shame. So this is the year we put that right.

I do look forward to seeing you there. It may be a chance that will not arise again for many years.


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