Pericles by William Shakespeare
Directed by Sam Shammas
Performed at the Cochrane Theatre, WC1
Monday 12th - Saturday 17th January 1998
"...magically-staged... the changing scenes are enhanced by finely-wrought artefacts including exquisite runes and graphics... Barry Cooper is an almost operatic figure, romantic and melancholy, and [giving] a fine tenor solo."
John Thaxter, The Stage, February 1998
The adventures start at Antioch where, seeking the hand of Antiochus’ daughter, Pericles, Prince of Tyre, discovers that they are having an incestuous relationship. Sickened, and fearing for his life, he escapes back to Tyre. The wise counsellor Helicanus advises him to travel to avoid Antiochus’ attempts to kill him. He flees to Tarsus where he relieves famine by bringing corn, but discovering that he is still in danger, sets sail again. He is shipwrecked on the coast of Pentapolis where fishermen direct him to the court of King Simonides where he wins the hand of the fair Thaisa. News of the death of Antiochus leaves Pericles free to return to Tyre with his pregnant wife. But during a violent storm Thaisa dies in childbirth and is buried at sea. Pericles changes course and, fearing for the health of his new-born child, leaves baby Marina with Cleon and Dionyza who promise to bring her up as befits a princess. Pericles withdraws from the world. Unknown to him, the chest containing Thaisa’s dead body is washed up on the shore of Ephesus. She is discovered by Cerimon, who revives her.
Fourteen years pass and the story turns to Marina. Jealous on behalf of her own daughter, Dionyza conspires to murder the beautiful Marina. But the girl is abducted by pirates who sell her into a brothel at Mytilene. Dionyza tells Pericles that Marina has died, and grief-stricken, he returns to sea. The ship eventually lands at Mytilene. There, Pericles meets Marina and is restored to the world. Appearing in a vision, the goddess Diana calls him to Ephesus, where he is also reunited with the wife he had thought dead.
Pericles is perhaps the most rarely performed of all Shakespeare's plays, but it contains all the qualities that make his late work so prized. As an introduction for students new to Shakespeare’s work, or as a demonstration of how advanced his art became in its latter stages, the play can hardly be bettered. Sea voyages, shipwrecks, magical interventions by higher powers, feasting, dancing and fierce combat all feature in Pericles. Like The Tempest, Cymbeline and The Winter’s Tale, the play has an emotional range and depth unique in Shakespeare’s canon, with redemption and reconciliation the overwhelming themes of its majestic conclusion.
"...the most intensely moving, in its fragmentary way, of all Shakespeare's work."
Sam Shammas Productions
return to front page