Review: Upstage Theatre’s Pericles, Prince of Tyre

Directed by Sophie Paterson and performed by Upstage Theatre Company as part of York’s Shakespeare Project, audiences of all ages are welcomed to the Ancient Gower pub in which the tale of Pericles is recounted.

The young prince Pericles is forced to flee his city, and travels across seas until he is washed up on the shore of Pentapolis, where he will meet and marry the King of Pentapolis’ daughter, Thaisa. In a turn of events, the Prince’s wife is seemingly dead after giving birth to their daughter, named Marina after her birth at sea. Pericles is eventually left without wife or daughter, until the reunion of Marina and Thaisa at the end of the play. The York Shakespeare Project’s performance for the most part stays true to the Shakespearian style and language of Pericles, Prince of Tyre, one of the most performed plays of Shakespeare’s own time, with slight injections of modern input, providing some comic relief for the audience.

Dedicated to the experience of the spectators, the cast immediately welcomed audience members in the style of promenade theatre, even before entering the building, an experience that brought you straight into the world of the play. The bare set consisted of tables and chairs, utilised for a number of different functions within the smooth transition. There was also a wooden bar, at which the audience could order drinks, adding to the bustling and lively atmosphere that filled the room upon arrival, as the audience was integrated beside cast members. The staging of the performance was unconventional, with some audience members on tables on the outskirts of the staging, again integrating with the cast. Performing on a traverse stage allowed the actors to easily transition through each scene and setting, as well as allowing the audience to engage more personally with the performance.

The cast carried out each song with a unity that enhanced the atmosphere of the play as well as giving an indication of setting, as the a cappella singing worked well with the seaside setting. The use of acting, singing, and dancing was coherent with the play’s themes and style, making transitions smooth through each scene; the singing worked particularly well when including the whole cast.

Andrew Isherwood’s portrayal of Pericles made him a likeable character, one which engaged with the audience more as his performance got stronger throughout. Although portraying each character in detail with characterisation including gestures, tone and body language, it was hard for audience members to connect with Claire Morley’s characters, that at one moment was a bawd, attempting to use Marina (played by Emily Thane) for personal gain whilst at another point was Marina’s loving mother. As a small cast this performance was a big task, and at times it seemed that some members of the cast were not necessarily utilised well, as multi role parts occasionally became blurred and others stood on the side lines, becoming more of a distraction to the performance than an enhancement.

An overall engaging performance, Pericles, Prince of Tyre is a classic portrayal of Shakespeare’s writing with themes of love, loss and betrayal.

The performance is running at the Gower Pub, Upstage Theatre, 41 Monkgate from 19th – 23rd April, every night at 7.30pm.