Monday, August 17, 2009
Assail'd with fortune fierce and keen . . . Led on by heaven, and crown'd with joy at last
On Saturday night, we went to see the Bell Shakespeare production of Pericles, Prince of Tyre (sort of a belated birthday outing for me and part of a plan to drink in even more Melbourne culture before the end of the year) (oh, and by "Melbourne culture," I mean the artsy good stuff, not so much the Underbelly, trackpant-wearing, inner-city violence sort of stuff).
In short, it was amazing.
And now, in long...
The production is in association with TaikOz, which was something I had wondered at before the play. Would it be distracting? Or too loud? There wasn't anything to worry about. They complimented the performance and the play very well and I was impressed with their work.
The set design and costuming was great - the simplicity was something I particularly loved, and the twist on things with the Asian styles of set and costume was enjoyable (although also unusual with it being ancient Greece in 17th century English).
As for the performances - excellent.
Marcus Graham in particular is adorably adorable! But that's more about him and his compact size rather than his acting. His acting was very good apart from all of the adorable-ness. I also loved the performances of the actors playing Dionyza and Cleon (and not just because the guy looked remarkably like my friend G - I nearly fell off my seat when he came on stage. The lack of tattoos was the only giveaway that it wasn't him).
Other highlights included the performances of the actors playing Gower and Helicanus. Plus the wonderfully bawdy addition to the brothel scene from the lady who also played Dionyza had everyone in stitches and I'm 99% certain Shakespeare would have loved those little touches ("Ohh! Big boat!").
The cleverest and totally accidental moment in the performance was when some jerk in the audience's phone rang. Things went quiet on stage momentarily, while someone seated behind us growled for whoever it was to turn the damn thing off. Silence reigned again, just in time for Pericles's line...
"Who is this?"
Audience dissolves into laughter and wild applause.
Actually, just an aside while thinking about the audience response. They were totally absorbed in the play throughout the entire performance. The silence was one of intense concentration and enjoyment (although there were lots of laughs at mostly appropriate moments).
As with reading the play itself, I found the final few scenes dragged, although the acting was still of a high quality. It's the material - it's rather dull. If people's pet theory now day is that Shakespeare didn't write the whole play, I say perhaps the final scenes were what he didn't write! They're dully not like him, whereas the first few scenes, which are apparently what some scholars say are the ones Shakespeare found partly written - are, I feel, the most redolent with wit, humour and intelligence and have a fair number of similarities with other plays by Shakespeare.
Plus the stuff about the use of the chorus - perhaps it's just that Shakespeare was using an integral element of traditional Greek plays for best dramatic effect. Plus the content of the play spans so many places, years and so on that it's necessary to have that "guide" or the audience could easily get lost. Plus, there's loads of wit in the lines of Gower.
But the stuff about authorship is all just my own personal opinion and I'm hardly a scholar of Shakespeare (one semester of Renaissance literature at uni, a few of his plays at high school and reading some of his plays for enjoyment doth not a scholar make).