While in London, the theatre geek in me once again drove me to the theatre. This time, much like my first foray to the Abbey thatre in Dublin, I happened to arrive just as a show was about to begin. Now, luckily or unluckily, it was during the international Shakespeare festival, with Shakespeare companies from around the world staging shows twice a day. For the entire time I was in London, there were no shows in English.
After four years as a theatre major, I have studied a majority of the bard’s plays. Some multiple times (I’m looking at you Macbeth) and others rather fleetingly. (Did I really study The Winter’s Tale?) On the day that I went, however, they were performing a play that I was completely unfamiliar with, Pericles. In Greek.
Now, normally, I would have prefered seeing a show in English… or if given the choice, I would want to see something I knew the story of if it wasn’t going to be in English… However.
I was surprised, and very very happy with the way the show turned out. They had signs on the sides of the stage briefly telling what was going on onstage. Mostly just each scene had a sentence. “Pericles is found by fishermen, and convinces them to harbor him safely.” So while we lost osme of the beauty that is Shakespeare’s dialogue, the troupe made up for it by incorporating music, and making really really fun asides during the show.
While the music was fun, and such a universal language, it was the asides to the audience that really made me feel like we were getting an authentic “Shakespearean” experience. It was relaxed, it was fun. The actors talked to the audience members, in English, about how the show was going, as it was going. At one point, Pericles, begging for food from the fishermen, turns his plea outward to the audience. In true helpful form, a groundling offered Pericles a piece of bread that had fallen to the edge of the stage in a previous scene. The fisherman slapped the bread away, yelling at the groundling, and it was just great. The actor playing Pericles was great as well, playing up his relief over recieving the bread and his indignation as it was slapped away. A nice little bit of improv to prove that live theatre is better than cinema. Gasp.
Yeah. I said it.