A raw-to-the-extreme adaptation of a Shakespeare classic delights with creative movement and dance sequences. It creates a magical way of loud, boundless storytelling and a feast for the senses. It’s just a shame that it’s such a slow burn.
I don’t think I have to stress that, but Shakespeare is not the easiest material for an inclusive show, taking into account complex stories and difficult-to-decipher language. So when I heard about the ambitious mission that the Flute Theatre is on, I was intrigued.
The Flute Theatre, led by Kelly Hunter MBE, created 2 adaptations of the same show, one of these specifically adapted for marginalised autistic audiences and those displaced by war. The company travels internationally to expose and involve the audiences that are usually excluded from theatre experiences in this unique experience.
“I created Flute Theatre to perform Shakespeare for audiences where the need for transcendence in theatre is greatest. With our double Pericles performance we offer a transformational experience to a genuinely inclusive audience who may not otherwise have the chance to attend. To watch both shows allows an audience to see deeper into Shakespeare’s “music of the spheres” .Kelly Hunter MBE
“Pericles” is one of the less-known Shakespeare plays. Some modern editors claim that Shakespeare was responsible for almost exactly half the play, while the rest was written by a collaborator. And I have to say, there is quite a different vibe between the two halves of the drama – but maybe it was just my feeling. Until the play’s authorship is confirmed by the experts, we won’t know!
The plot follows the complex life story of the title character. A jousting contest leads to Pericles, Prince of Tyre, winning the heart of a princess and – soon after – escaping death. As soon as he returns home, his family (princess-turned-wife and his newborn daughter) joins him on another journey and sails with him, but a storm separates them. Several years later, Pericles discovers his daughter and finally reunites with his wife.
The show is expressive to the extreme, with some scenes being over-the-top, yet still, somewhat matching the production as a whole. There’s a crazy almost hypnotic dance, playing the drums on an actress’ bum as she’s hanging upside down, but there are also loud, heartfelt scenes of sadness and self-pity. Certain emotional moments, like when actors cry and beat themselves on their heads, resemble the behaviour of people on the autism spectrum – I assume this is introduced as a link to the company’s core mission, and it does seem very much rational.
Joshua Welch gives a stunning performance as Pericles, and maintains high seriousness and energy, even when he stands on the stage half-naked. He creates a believable character of a respectable royal who has a heart of gold but is constantly tested by the gods and sent terrible fate.
I have to say though, the performance of the night belongs to Natasha Haward. She effortlessly shifted between the core 3 female roles and played the women of various generations. Her emotions, especially in the last scene of “family discovery” truly carried the show’s emotional load.
Juan Sanchez Plaza’s brief moments of acrobatic yoga-like choreography enriched the show with unexpected, fully-controlled movement that was difficult to take eyes off.
As much as I found the play fresh and enjoyable, it was not perfect. The plot started thickening a bit too slow for me, and it took a good 20 min to immerse myself in the story (but once it happened, I forgot about the whole world, just like when you watch a decent action movie in the cinema). Some of the choices of the director were questionable – like the last couple of minutes of the performance, with a touch of forced audience participation, felt just awkward (it probably works well while performing in a more relaxed environment).
The music arrangements were a hit and miss, with some moments slightly disturbing my reception of dialogues on the stage with loud gongs or noises. Some others, however, like the most amusing moment of the play (the “Amore” song and dancing) worked very well and brought a wide smile to my face.
PERICLES – LONDON
08-13 November 2022
Riverside Studios, London
PERICLES FOR AUTISTIC INDIVIDUALS AND THEIR FAMILIES – LONDON
09-12 November 2022
Riverside Studios, London
PERICLES – BRIGHTON
16 November 2022, 8 PM
The Old Market
PERICLES FOR AUTISTIC INDIVIDUALS AND THEIR FAMILIES– BRIGHTON
16 November 2022, 5 PM
The Old Market