Reviewed by James Karas
“Hark you, sir, do you know where ye are?”
That is a question put to Pericles, who has just been tossed on shore after a storm, by a fisherman but it could just as easily be addressed to the audience. The Adventures of Pericles as the Stratford Festival calls the play otherwise known as Pericles, Prince of Tyre takes you all over the eastern Mediterranean basin with an episodic plot that keeps your head spinning.
Evan Buliung (centre) as Pericles with members of the company. Photography by David Hou.
Scott Wentworth directs the sprawling work with good results but there is no getting around the fact that it is a lousy play even if Shakespeare wrote some or most of it. The Stratford Festival acknowledges that George Wilkins was Shakespeare’s probable collaborator.
The production opens arrestingly enough with a bride walking across the stage. We then see six Maiden Priests, dressed like Greek Orthodox bishops only in white. They replace Gower of the text and sing his Prologue. It is a wise choice. We see the Maiden Priests a number of times throughout the play.
Pericles (Evan Buliung) starts in Antioch where he w
Our hero escapes and we follow him to Tyre, Tarsus, Pentapolis, Ephesus and Mytilene in a tour full of adventures.
Deborah Hay as Thaisa in The Adventures of Pericles. Photography by David Hou.
Buliung as Pericles takes the middle road between histrionics and understatement in a fine performance. He is a Pericles who has a larger share of troubles than most people can imagine
The play has over forty characters and most of the actors take two or more roles. The characters range from the honourable Lysimachus (Antoine Yared) to the murderous Dionyza (Claire Lautier.)
Deborah Hay plays Thaisa, Pericles’s wife as well as Marina, his daughter. She invests her performance with beauty and innocence as well as guile and spunk as she survives her tenure in a brothel.
Randy Hughson with his distinctive voice plays Bolt the brothel keeper and Brigit Wilson is quite a Bawd.
Wentworth and designer Patrick Clark give the production a Dickensian flavour with top hats, boots and long coats reminiscent of Victorian England. The most prominent prop is a large four-poser bed on which we see the incestuous Antiochus and his daughter at the beginning, the bawds of the brothel and the catatonically depressed Pericles near the end.
The production is an intelligent retelling of a long and unfocused story. In other words, you can have a good production of a lousy play and, yes, you will eventually figure out where you are.