CELEBRATING its 50th year in 2013, Brownsea Open Air Theatre paired up the ever popular A Midsummer Night’s Dream with a “new” play to the island, the complex and rarely performed Pericles.
And Don Cherrett’s production, on until 16th August, has given the magical island theatre one of its finest ever moments in the heart-rending meeting of the broken Pericles and his daughter Marina, right at the end of the play.
The play has six main settings as the young Prince sails from his homeland in search of a bride, and finds instead vice, corruption and murderous plots interspersed by storms at sea, shipwrecks, happiness and heartbreak.
It’s a story packed with colourful characters and improbably dramatic narrative, but it is nothing like as difficult to believe as its nearest Shakespearean cousin, A Winter’s Tale.
The challenge is always to bring it off convincingly, and on the grassy arena at Brownsea the director and cast have the additional difficulty of finding enough humour to keep the audience entertained.
Don Cherrett did this brilliantly, by creating a mock joust and a sort of military Morris dance, and a salaciously funny but seriously threatening brothel.
Thaisa didn’t fall in love with a handsome warrior but with a man who offered fun and humour.
In this vast cast there wasn’t a single member who didn’t convince, and this powerful ensemble allowed some unusually intense characterisation from the leading actors.
It all started with Andrew Whyatt and Bethany Harris’s venal father and daughter act, continuing with the evil Dioniza of Bev Beck, Don Gent’s gleefully manipulative Simonides, Noel Davenport’s wise and warm Cerimon and Mike Hill, Chris Bunn and June Garland in their bawdy house.
Marie Bushell is a touchingly determined Thaisa, with the impassioned Emily Jayne (who you may have seen as Emily Williams in BADA and Dramatic Productions shows) as a compelling Marina, Chaz Davenport as Gower the narrator, and at the centre, a towering performance by Brian Woolton in the title role – a good man on whom the fates seem to be trying out their direst powers.
The whole production is interwoven with the sounds of Courtlye Musick, playing live on stage.
After the sellout of The Dream, there are still tickets available for this production of Pericles, on alternate nights until next Friday 16th August.
You really won’t see a better told or more entertaining production of this difficult play, carefully cast from the cream of the region’s actors.