“A beautiful piece of theatre”
This was my first time with Shakespeare at The George and also my first time with Pericles, one of Shakespeare’s lesser known plays, so I was very much looking forward to the evening. I took my seat in the pretty inner courtyard of the George Hotel, cleverly transformed into the Shakespearian stage, and as the actors began their opening scene it was clear that this was going to be great night.
However, the weather had other ideas and within the first 10 minutes a short, sharp shower had the audience scurrying for their waterproofs. What a shame! The cast coped admirably with what must have been a very distracting situation, whereby every member of their audience was shuffling and moving around in their seats, fumbling to find jackets and hats and trying to escape the rain. None of us wants to get soaked but unfortunately audience etiquette was abandoned for a minute or two. However, the superbly professional actors continued as though nothing was amiss, despite getting rained on themselves of course. The show must go on!
With wonderful direction throughout by Richard Brown and assistant director Charlotte Maylor, the cast of Pericles would not have looked out of place on the professional stage. Each one of the eighteen actors who brought this piece to life were worthy of the tremendous plaudits at the end of the play. It is perhaps a rarity in amateur theatre (and I use the term loosely) to have such a wealth of talent in the ensemble as well as the lead roles and this allowed the audience to sit back and relax and enjoy the spectacle.
Credit must go to musicians, Ian Favell and Roy Bellass, who created a wonderfully authentic sound and it was lovely to see them on stage, in costume with their instruments, at times too. Costumes by Helen Arnett and her team were superb throughout and the hair and make up team led by Charlotte Maylor also did a sterling job. The stage looked superb and gave the piece a very authentic Shakespearian feel for the audience, very clever use of the space here. Lighting from Max Richardson was excellent, although it was a shame that we were unable to fully appreciate this until the very end of the evening as it got darker. As twilight drew in, the atmosphere created for the final scene with a beautifully lit stage and glowing spheres in the hands of the actors, was simply magical.
Pericles himself was ably played by Simon Maylor, who barely left the stage in Act 1 and did an admirable job of remembering so very many Shakespearian lines all in the same act! Holding the play together as the lead is never easy, as so much lies on one character’s shoulders, however this piece is brought together by all of the characters that Pericles encounters on his many journeys and each one deserves a mention here for their sheer professionalism and superb acting skills. One or two really stood out for me, in particular Julez Hamilton as Thaisa and Antiochus’ daughter who was wonderful as both characters – Dioniza played superbly by Lynne Livingstone who beautifully captured the emotions of this character and the excellent Reuben Milne who, although playing several more minor roles, made me laugh with each different character that he played.
Plaudits too for Georgie Bickerdike as Marina in her first outing with SatG – an excellent debut, well done – and Guy Marshall, superb in his role of Helicanus. Dean Laccohee as Cleon played the role brilliantly and James Barwise was excellent as Lysimachus as well as the executioner and in particular a Knight Of Antioch, I loved the characterisation here. The scene with the three knights was brilliantly directed and superbly played out, having the audience in stitches – well done.
Derrick Scothern as Simonides oozed professionalism and wisdom – and Lord and Lady Escanes, Duncan and Helen McCallum entertained throughout with Helen also doubling up as a whore! Liz Barka and Josephine Hussey joined her in this role and again made the audience laugh with their antics – as did the fabulous fishwife scene, played again by Liz and Josephine and joined this time by Madeleine Forrester. A superb job ladies, in all of these comic roles, with great direction for these scenes once again. Very enjoyable.
Madeleine and Liz played a veritable plethora of roles (never easy to do) as did Perry Incledon-Webber, opening the play as Antiochus and wending his way through four more characters as the action unfolded. This was also the case for Steph Hamer, Paula Inceldon-Webber and Peter Finnigan who each played their many roles with ease and were equally happy in each one. Playing more than one character can occasionally be confusing for an audience (let alone the actors themselves) but each one of the actors playing multiple roles did a fabulous job of multi-tasking, leading us through the piece with confidence and ease, so not once were we ever unsure of who they were portraying at this time.
There was clear and solid direction throughout, with some notable scenes. Slow motion action for the ensemble was used to great effect and there were some great comedic moments. We encounter Knights fighting for the hand of Thaisa, where the action actually takes place offstage but the audience are guided through this by the watching ensemble imitating what they are seeing – very cleverly portrayed. The Knights’ dance was fabulously entertaining and their body language and physical skills were brilliant to watch. Thaisa’s death scene on the ship had some lovely, touching moments and later on freezing the action stage right, whilst a new scene opened stage left was very effective here. Pericles’ dream sequence was enchanting, with costumes and lighting all coming together to create a beautiful piece of theatre.
The hospitality at SaTG was lovely and very welcoming, with drinks in the interval for VIP guests and a goody bag for programmes and posters – thank you! Even the rain shower could not dampen our spirits as SaTG took us on a magical and enchanting journey and entertained us all with their fantastically talented cast.
Congratulations and thank you one and all for most enjoyable evening.