Production Photos by: James Bellorini
Starting with a fresh take on Shakespeare’s Pericles, the National Theatre have officially kicked off their Public Acts programme. Inspired by the work of NYC’s The Public Theater’s initiative, Public Works, the programme aims to create and build partnerships with local communities and theatres across the country. The programme also gives the opportunity to organisations to perform on a national stage alongside professional actors in a partnership with the Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch.
The first production in the Public Acts programme is a new adaptation of Shakespeare’s Pericles, written by Chris Bush, no stranger to the NT after writing one of the plays performed in this year’s Connections Festival, along with music by Jim Fortune under the direction of Emily Lim. The play follows Prince Pericles who is banished from his home and ends up in Pertapolis, where he meets Thaisa. But after the couple end up shipwrecked, Pericles must do all he can to protect his daughter, even if that means sending her to live elsewhere. Ultimately, the play is about what, where and who we consider to be our “home”.
First thing I have to mention is the level of diversity in this production. If the National can showcase the diversity we have in this country of all races, sizes, abilities/disabilities, ages and genders on one stage in one production, WHY ARE THEY NOT DOING THIS ALL THE TIME? If you can make your Shakespeare productions this exciting and fresh, then we really don’t need anymore white, non-Scottish Macbeths. Especially when you have incredible talent such as Ashley Zhangazha and Naana Agyei-Ampadu who led the company as Pericles and Thaisa on the same stage as little kids to wheelchair users to the amazing dance group Manifest Nation. Jim Fortune’s music was lively and felt fresh off the radio. But I did love the cameos from the Faith Works Choir and the London Bulgarian Choir, whose performances were moving and showcased how music doesn’t need to be in a person’s native tongue to make them feel connected.
The Olivier stage is massive and the stage was filled to the brim with talent. I must also mention Audrey Brisson and her younger counterparts Helen Adesanya and Kareena Thind who were wonderful to watch as Marina and all three really captured her youthfulness. In addition, Kevin Harvey was an absolute delight to watch as Boult who turned up in enough glitter and sequins to put Hedwig AND her angry inch to shame with a fabulous cabaret number.
And that was only just a sliver of what the Public Acts programme can showcase. The entire company were incredible and this new adaptation was so inclusive of all backgrounds and talents, I don’t see why the National can’t produce more imaginative and accessible work like this outside of the programme. Gear up for 2019 as the next Public Acts production will be hosted at the Queen’s Theatre in Hornchurch next August.
Until next time,