Pericles

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Pericles, by William Shakespeare, was directed by Jan Rae and was performed at the Dulwich Picture Gallery Garden in July 2012.

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Review by Sophie Taylor

Jan Rae had her work cut out for her, not only by taking on one of Shakespeare's lesser performed plays but also performing it outdoors, in the gardens of The Dulwich Picture Gallery, with all the risks that the British weather entails. But due to superb direction and numerous creative ideas and decisions, Pericles was a joy to watch. 

The creativity began with the set's blue sea scape, large mast, rigging and ship's wheel (spectacularly crafted by John Aldred), as well as the 'voyages' map provided to the audience, instantly set the scene for our Mediterranean voyage. The set was clearly impressive in scale and ambition. Further creative credit to the crew must be given to the sound and lighting with perfect Regal music accompanying the numerous Royal Households and spectacular lighting additions to the usual fare, that this year illuminated the surrounding trees from within and also impressively dramatically backlit Diana the Goddess as she appeared to Pericles in a dream. Jane Jones' beautiful costumes (and some stunning pieces of jewellery), all 40 of them, and Denise Biffin's hair and make-up choices made key characters stand out with memorable pieces and styles, such as Dionyza's sparkly coat and bouffant hair, Cleon's turban and Mistress Pandar's curly long locks, allowing smaller parts to blend in, helping it go unnoticed that multiple parts were played by the same actors. The creative choices continued with some clever use of props when the narrators used a model ship to signify Pericles' travels and elegant signs were used to alert the audience to location changes; whilst I would have actually liked to have seen these used more, they were an inventive addition. The production's most creative choice was the use of live sound (and water!) during the storm scenes, as cast member's used voices, instruments and movement to create wind, rain and thunder. The smiles on the audience's faces said it all during these scenes!

The whole cast was word-perfect, believable and enthusiastic, all kept the pace up made it a delightful performance. It was great to see three new members joining this production; David, Sinead and Katie all gave performances that clearly show that The Dulwich Players is lucky to have found them. Special mention should go to Ian Jone's authoritative King of Antioch, Jane and Roger's superb, and humorous, narration duo, an emotionally charged Rebecca Dalloway as a bereft Lychorida and a superbly evil Louise Norman as the scheming and jealous Dionyza. Not of course forgetting, the triumph that was Kevin Smith as Pericles. It is also worth note that there were two performances from fairly new members, Sarah Wyatt and Robert Pastore, who have both clearly grown and developed in their acting skills and confidence since their first productions, something I feel that is an important role that amateur dramatics can provide and a function for which the society can be proud. 

At points, it would have been good to vary the tempo more, for example the arrival in Tarsus lacked the change in tempo needed to symbolise the surprise at the arrival of a ship with its new stranger to a foreign land. The cast could also have projected slightly more. There were also a couple of anomalies that stood out as perhaps taking the creative vision a tad too far, such as an unexpected Scottish accent and the insertion of a modern prop camera. 

It has always been my view that when doing an outdoor production, a director really should embrace the space and freedom this can give you, without the restraints of a theatre stage. It was thrilling to see Jan Rae do just this! Space was used well with the cast using all dimensions of the large and varied space, in particular to segue scenes by entering before the current scene had finished and beginning the action upstage before commencing their action. The pirate attack came from behind the audience, with the pirates involving audience members in the element of creeping surprise, and Pericles' vision in a dream came from the central aisle. 

All in all, Pericles was an original production for which all involved should be congratulated.