Paul T. Davies reviews Flute Theatre’s production of Pericles at the Mercury Theatre, Colchester.
Mercury Theatre, Colchester.
10 March 2023
Perhaps not the most loved of Shakespeare’s works, Pericles is a knotty, convoluted play of extreme co-incidence, survival, reconciliation, and shipwrecks. (The biggest take away is that Shakespeare loved a shipwreck!) Pericles, Prince of Tyre, wins a jousting competition and the heart of a Princess, but soon must run for his life. The plot becomes thicker, and the threads of the story become lost and tangled. However, Flute Theatre have created a beautiful, tender production, with a multi-cultural cast, and Kelly Hunter’s incisive adaptation and direction highlight the themes of people fleeing for their lives, losing loved ones at sea, and emotional finding of love and reunion.
This is storytelling at it’s best. On an almost bare stage, locations and shipwrecks are created with materials and music that invoke absolute magic. The company multi-role with ease, so much so it seems unfair to single any of them out. However, Joshua Welsh is impressive as Pericles, serious and tortured, the shipwreck being created by a bottle of water and his bare torso is a powerful image. Charlie Archer also composed the music, and the cast are lifted by it, and Natasha Haward triumphs in the three central female roles. There is an excellent engagement with the audience, from all, Catherine Kay, Andrei Nestor, Sergio Maggiolo, Mercedes Maresca and Oliver McLellan using simple costume items to transform from each character. It’s just a shame the play doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.
There are times when the company raise the energy level high, but I never felt the sakes were high for the characters. Despite ever-present threats, I never believed they were in danger, we know it will work out in the end. However, this is a beautiful, tender, production performed by an empathetic, sensitive company, devoted to storytelling. They also stage a version of the production for autistic individuals, so do check them out.