Pericles – Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre  

Review by Lesley Finlay

While summer seems such a long time ago, this colourful and energetic production of Pericles directed by Natalie Abrahami, remains in the memory. The Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre has become a summer staple and it is good to see that the repertoire is challenging. Hot on the heels of a well-received Lord of the Flies came this delightful re-imagining of the play, now a part of the Shakespearean canon, even though it was not in the First Folio.
On the hot summer afternoon that we attended, the place was packed with secondary school students. Cutting out all the political preamble, Abrahami concentrates on the fairytale ‘lost and found’ storyline.
The play began in pantomime fashion, with pirates moving onto the stage following a preamble chatting and frightening young members of the audience. Marina (Hara Yannas) joined the stage entreating the audience to wave paper fishes (provided) whenever we heard the word ‘sea’ – this, oddly, was the only jarring note, her delivery was pitched far too young. Then we quickly got into the ‘real’ story. Marina is left with her cruel aunt (played with wonderful relish by Liza Pulman) after her mother ‘dies’ on a voyage, her sea captain father is so distraught he continues on his journey. Meanwhile, Marina is sold (to a travelling circus, not a brothel as in the original!) and when her father returns to find her gone, he falls into a swoon of grief, only revived by the sight of his daughter. The young audience listened, laughed and sighed in the right places. As ever, this was an ensemble piece, with players at the top of their game.
A heart-warming finale prompted genuine ‘oohs and ahhhs’ and Abrahami’s light touch should have left some at the very least with the possibilities of enjoyment that a Shakespeare tale well told can bring.