14 Jul Pericles
Directed by Andrew Hilton
February 10 – March 19 2005
Production Photos © 2005 Graham Wyles
Roland Oliver Gower, as Chorus
Andrew Collins Antiochus, King of Antioch; Simonides, King of Pentapolis; A Pandar in Mytilene
Nathan Rimell Pericles, Prince of Tyre
Catherine Hamilton Daughter to Antiochus; Marina, daughter to Pericles
Dan Winter Leonine, a Lord of Antioch
Paul Nicholson Helicanus, a Lord of Tyre; A Fisherman of Pentapolis
Mark Hesketh A Lord of Tyre; Lysimachus, Governor of Mytilene;
Jacob Dylan Thomas A Lord of Tyre; A Fisherman of Pentapolis; Philemon, A gentleman of Ephesus; Boult, a pimp of Mytilene
Lucy Black Thaisa, Daughter of King Simonides
Stuart Crossman Cleon, Governor of Tarsus
Daisy Douglas Dionyza, Wife of Cleon
Esther Ruth Elliott Lychorida, Nurse to Marina; Diana, a Goddess
Paul Currier Cerimon, a Lord of Ephesus
Avril Elgar A Bawd of Mytilene
Director Andrew Hilton
Set & Costume Designer Vicki Cowan-Ostersen
Editor and Associate Director Dominic Power
Composer John Telfer
Lighting Designer Paul Towson
Costume Supervisor Angie Parker
Choreographer Jonathan Howell
Sound Designer Elizabeth Purnell
Researcher Joanna Turner
Production Manager Adam Carree
Stage Manager Jane Byrom
Deputy Stage Manager Eleanor Dixon
Assistant Stage Manager Josh Rendell
Costume Laundry Kim Winter
Graphic Designer Alan Coveney
★★★★ The Independent I’ve seen some very good productions of Shakespeare’s Pericles in the past two years. There was the Cardboard Citizens’ site-specific version in the loading bays of a south London warehouse (which thrust the audience into the position of bewildered refugees, like the harried, haven-seeking hero); and Neil Bartlett’s account at the Lyric Hammersmith, which set this restless, seafaring piece in the frame of a modern hospital, thereby heightening the sense that it is a tragicomedy that drives people both to extremes and into the therapeutic care of doctors earthly and heavenly.
But I have not seen anything like this Andrew Hilton production at the Tobacco Factory: it has a purity and delicacy of emotional shading that I have never previously encountered. Lightly washed with music of the eastern Mediterranean and the sound of the sea, and sparely staged on a stone floor, the production is propelled by a haunting, fresh perception of the hero’s predicament.
Pericles is usually presented as undeserving of the blows fate rains on him. Competing for the hand of the daughter of the King of Antioch, he is asked to solve a verbal riddle that encapsulates the fact that she is in an incestuous relationship with her father. Having decoded this grim intelligence, Pericles flees the danger and the contamination of it. It is as if the threat of incest hangs over the play (intensified when he is separated for years from his own daughter) and is purged only in the piercing recognition scene.
The new insight here is that, in that disturbingly inaugurative episode, Nathan Rimell’s wonderfully winning Pericles errs in not trying to rescue the princess from the father’s incestuous clutches. Catherine Hamilton, an actress who has a great deal of the beauty and the moral weight of a young Wendy Hiller, hands him the written riddle with such eloquent, dignified pleading in her eyes, albeit offset by a royal reserve, that you wonder why the absconding hero thinks only of himself.
Hamilton resurfaces in the proceedings as a splendidly sorrowful but stoic Marina, the daughter from whom Pericles is long parted. The doubling of roles creates not just that ur-Wizard of Oz sense of refracted reappearances, but a deeply dreamlike feel of the world of uncanny pre-echoings. Hilton’s production is very subtly alive with this aspect of the play.
The casting is acute. Thanks to Avril Elgar, the veteran actress who brilliantly plays the Bawd, the comedy of the brothel scene plays like a continuation of the lowlife sequences in the two Henry IV plays, as well as of those inMeasure for Measure. Behaving as though she were the nurse in Romeo and Juliet after years of enforced depravity and a 60-a-day smoking habit, this shrivelled harridan of mad faith holds Marina’s hand with a quasi-motherly concern. It’s not a daughter she wants, though; it’s a sexual gold mine. Her struggle to come over as genteel when the local ruler drops in is excrutiatingly funny.
There’s another beautifully judged performance from Roland Oliver as the poet Gower; the chorus-like figure who here delivers the narrative passages with the right warmth and eloquence of an old, wise man, instead of the usual in-jokiness. The production leaves you feeling not just satisfied but blessed. Paul Taylor
★★★★ The Guardian A candle brings light to the dark secrets of a king and his daughter, and so begins the odyssey of Pericles, a man whose misfortunes are so great – he loses his beautiful young wife to the cruel sea and his baby daughter, Marina, to cruel friends – that he has rather more right than King Lear to rail against fate. The gods, however, are only playing. In the end, as you would expect in a fairy-tale – and this is a world where the good are rewarded and the bad end up with punishments that make it seem as if Snow White’s wicked stepmother got off lightly with her red hot shoes – there are only happily ever afters. The lost are found and grief and suffering are transformed into joy, in what you imagine must have been Shakespeare’s dry run for The Winter’s Tale.
Rarely performed (this is only the third time I’ve seen it), Pericles seems fresh-minted in Andrew Hilton’s production, which for the most part is played on a bare stage with the actors robed in Vicki Cowan-Ostersen’s exquisite flowing costumes that seem to take their rich hues from the sea itself. In previous Tobacco Factory productions Hilton has proved himself one of the great tellers of Shakespeare, and his narrative skills are displayed to brilliant advantage here in a play whose episodic structure could be emotionally unsatisfying. Hilton keeps you involved right up to the final touching meeting of father and daughter … An enjoyable evening bursting with life and the sweet and sour of all humanity. Lyn Gardner
★★★★ The Daily Mail Pericles, seldom performed, is Shakespeare in happy-ending mode. Some think it shallow and underwritten but it has attractive echoes of Twelfth Night – sea storms, hidden identities and love rediscovered after death had apparently ripped it away … A youthful, unsophisticated cast at Bristol’s Tobacco Factory puts things right. ‘Unsophisticated’ is meant as a compliment. Andrew Hilton’s light-touch direction does not beat you about the Greek temples. It does not try to oyster-knife deep, intellectual conflict out of the words. Mr Hilton’s actors pour so much of their souls into the task that any even-natured audience will warm to this tale and excuse its wilder coincidences. As the players took their bows it struck me that no one had shown off, no one had tried to overact or browbeat. How refreshing.
A rangy, long-haired lad called Nathan Rimell plays Pericles. Jolly good he is, too, if you like your young kings wholesome and innocent … He is plotted against, loses his wife and daughter, and is shipwrecked twice – no Ellen MacArthur, he. Such misfortune should never dog so decent a man.
Hamlet has its gravediggers. The Dream boasts Bottom & Co. For its comic relief, Pericles first gives us two Greek fishermen who talk in a rather 17th-century English way about ‘puddings and flap-jacks’. Then comes a ticklish scene in a brothel where Pericles’s teenage daughter Marina (Catherine Hamilton, all cascading curls and chastity) keeps putting would-be customers off their oats by being so impossibly sweet. Peter Hall-lookalike Roland Oliver, playing the chorus as a turbanned, east-Mediterranean sage, keeps stepping on stage from the audience to comment on the action.
Multi-tasking Andrew Collins is great as the brothel’s wild-eyed, skew-whiff capped pandar.
Lucy Black, as Pericles’ wife, and Daisy Douglas, as a wicked woman of Tarsus, also catch the eye. The play’s bawdiness seems more like Marlowe while the two-dimensional straightforwardness of the drama belongs to something pre-Shakespeare. No wonder there are disagreements about its authorship … A fourth star might seem generous for a less than completely swanky troupe, but they clinch it by daring to be unfashionable, and by doing it all without a penny of public money. Quentin Letts
SOURCES & AUTHORSHIP
Although relatively unfamiliar to the modern audience, Pericles was extremely popular in its time. According to the title page of the First Quarto, printed in 1609, it was ‘divers and sundry times acted by his Majesty’s servants at the Globe on the Bankside’; and the text sold so well that it was reprinted in the same year. Only two other Shakespeare texts before Pericles had met with this success – Richard II and Henry IV Part 1, both in 1598.
The ultimate source for the play was one of the most popular and well-known stories of the Middle Ages and Renaissance – the romance of Apollonius of Tyre which was rewritten and adapted in many languages in prose, verse and drama. The retellings that most influenced the play were in Lawrence Twine’s The Pattern of Painful Adventures and John Gower’s Confessio Amantis. Gower’s poem, written late in the 14th century and printed twice in the 16th (in 1532 and 1554), had the greater impact. Several passages in the play seem to have been paraphrased from Gower, while Shakespeare resurrects the poet himself to tell this ancient story.
A novel entitled The Painful Adventures of Pericles Prince of Tyre by George Wilkins appeared in 1608, a year before the First Quarto of Pericles, but it seems unlikely it was a source; rather that the play was a source for the novel. Its title page announces ‘The true History of the Play of Pericles as it was lately presented by the worthy and ancient Poet John Gower’, and there are passages that are clearly reporting what its author had seen on Shakespeare’s stage.
Yet Wilkins is often regarded as Shakespeare’s collaborator – in large part due to The Painful Adventures and also to certain textual parallels with Wilkins’ own dramatic writing. This idea of an uncredited collaborator – stemming from the play’s uneven quality and stylistic variations, and from its absence from the First Folio – is generally, though not universally, approved by scholars. But we do not know why Heminges and Condell, two actors of Shakespeare’s company who would have known Shakespeare’s work very well, chose (or were obliged) to exclude it from the Folio. And neither do we know – if indeed there was a collaborator – who he was, as the Quarto text assigns the play to Shakespeare alone.
But the idea that Shakespeare’s hand is only fleetingly apparent in the first two acts, but entirely responsible for the last three, has a long pedigree. George Lillo announced in his prologue to Marina (1738), an adaptation of the last two acts of Pericles that
We dare not charge the whole unequal play
Of Pericles on him; yet let us say,
As gold though mix’d with baser matter shines,
So do his bright inimitable lines
Throughout those rude wild scenes distinguish’d stand,
And show he touch’d them with no sparing hand.
Similarly, Coleridge claimed that Pericles illustrates
the way in which Shakespeare handled a piece he had to refit for presentation. At first he proceeded with indifference, now and then only troubling himself to put in a thought or an image, but as he advanced he interested himself in his employment, and the last two acts are almost altogether by him.
Candidates for authorship of those ‘rude, wild scenes’ – in addition to Wilkins – include William Rowley, who collaborated on The Changeling with Thomas Middleton; Thomas Heywood, author of A Woman Killed with Kindness and a prolific dramatist who claimed to have had at least a hand in over two hundred plays; and John Day, whose own plays included The Parliament of Bees. These, and others, all have their passionate advocates – and their equally passionate opponents.
An alternative theory – that recognises the stylistic variations but credits Shakespeare with sole authorship – is that he began the play very early in his career, abandoned it for almost two decades, and then completed it in his last phase.
John Dryden believed the whole play to be an early work, though that is probably the least plausible of all notions and the least likely to figure in an academic argument that will continue – the only certainty in this debate – for as long as Shakespeare is admired and performed. Joanna Turner
Pericles belongs – with Cymbeline, The Winter’s Tale and The Tempest – to that group of Shakespeare plays we know as his ‘late romances’. With them it explores a theme introduced at the start of his career in The Comedy of Errors and picked up again in Twelfth Night, of characters (brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, parents and children) separated by ocean storms and other misfortunes, miraculously reunited in dénouments that, though fairytale in their form, seem even now to tap into our most fundamental emotions.
But even within this group the play is unusual and – as Joanna Turner outlines below – many a theory of multiple authorship has been evolved to explain why it seems to operate in such an un-Shakespearean and picaresque fashion. Where is the conflict? Why is its hero’s story so utterly dependent on the random workings of Fortune? And why does the style of much of the writing seem to change in mid-play?
There is material here for volumes of footnotes and many a PhD thesis, but the business of the theatre is to take what has been handed down to us and make sense of it as a whole. The result, frequently, is that doubts expressed in the study fall way and a play emerges on the stage of far greater integrity and power. Pericles is no exception. Certainly there are stylistic oddities, and the clear corruption of the text by poor recording in the Quartos (it was omitted from the great Folio of 1623) is frustrating and time-consuming in rehearsal. But the play is, I believe, an organic whole and rings with the voice and authority of Shakespeare from opening to finale.
Nor is it necessarily true that its hero is entirely innocent and undeserving of the blows with which Fortune batters him. Pericles is no Leontes – whose loss of son, daughter and loving wife are, by any measure, the deserved consequences of his perverse and murderous jealousy – but there are other levels of guilt. Oedipus kills his father and marries his mother unknowingly but is nonetheless punished by enraged gods for patricide and incest. Pericles aspires to the hand of Antiochus’ daughter and believes he is fated to win her. But finding she is her father’s whore, recoils from her and abandons her. This unilateral ‘right to choose’ which he would exercise over a voiceless woman – and in the face of the grimmest warnings – is, perhaps, a form of hubris to test the patience of Heaven.
Though the play mixes cultural and historical reference – there are elements of the medieval and the Renaissance, of the English and the Middle Eastern – we have decided to costume it in the eastern Mediteranean world of its many ports of call: Antioch in Syria, Tyre in Lebanon, Tarsus and Ephesus in Turkey, Pentapolis in Greece and Mytilene, the capital of Lesbos. If at times the play seems to bring us closer to home, among fishermen, beadles and Cheapside whores, that is Shakepeare’s habitual method and the liberating flexibility of his stage.
on the Goddess Diana
Diana is the presiding deity of Pericles’ world, even more emphatically than Apollo is the presiding deity of The Winter’s Tale. She was the Roman goddess of chastity, hunting, fertility, healing, and of the Moon. Widely revered and admired, her temple in Ephesus, Turkey, was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The Ephesians also worshipped her as the ruler of their city. In the Bible the scale of her influence is revealed when it comes under threat from the new Christian teaching:
a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith which made silver shrines for Diana, brought no small gain unto the crafstmen; whom he called together with the workmen of like occupation, and said, “Sirs, ye know that by this craft we have our wealth. Moreover ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands. So that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought; but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth.” And when they heard these sayings, they were full of wrath, and cried out, saying, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians.” (from the Acts of the Apostles, King James version)
We thought it appropriate to choose Ben Jonson’s superb ‘Hymn to Diana’ to give to Pericles to sing during the night following his triumph in Pentapolis.