Monday, July 11, 2016

Anyone for time travel?

Mind-blowing Pericles at Bard
by Christopher Key

OK, so there are two must-see productions at Bard on the Beach this year and the second one is also on the Howard Family Stage.  If the name of Pericles director Lois Anderson seems familiar, it’s because she’s been an onstage favorite for years.  Anderson also knows how to make an entrance as a director and her first effort is going to be tough to top.

The sheer amount of work Anderson put in on this adaptation is evident in her Director’s Notes wherein she cites everyone from Joseph Campbell to Euripedes to George Lucas.  Another indication of hard work and attention to detail is how much time she and the techies must have spent together.

How often have you heard an audience at a Shakespeare festival spontaneously break into applause at some wizardly feat of stage magic?  It happened several times on opening night and that means the backstage geniuses get first billing.

Photo credit - David Blue

Anderson not only borrows a speech from Euripedes, but much of the classical Greek dramatic form.  That demands some vocal acrobatics from the actors and Alison Matthews coaches them very well.  There are ghostly presences whose statuesque appearance is thanks to an unnamed makeup artist and Marie Le Bihan, in charge of wig construction.

This production is marvelously mystical, somewhat reminiscent of The Tempest and time is somewhat fluid as we travel forward and back.  That required a lot of creativity from Costume Designer Carmen Alatorre and it shows in every stitch.

I’ve never been able to discern very clearly the fine line between choreography and movement.  But I know it when I see it and the atmospheric movement in this play springs from the fertile imagination of Wendy Gorling.

None of this would work without close attention to scenic design.  Amir Ofek delivers a set that you’ll want to explore carefully before the show begins in order to appreciate the attention to detail.  Tip of the fedora to Indiana Jones.

Photo credit - David Blue

Even though the oft-underappreciated backstage barbarians steal this one, there are also some actors who contribute mightily and endure some serious staging challenges.  The title role is played Kaymar Pazandeh who runs away with Rookie of the Year honors.  

Photo credit - David Blue

David Warburton is appropriately Obi-wan Kenobish as Cerimon, a healer and tour guide on the side. 

Photo credit - David Blue

Pericles' long-lost daughter Marina is portrayed by Luisa Jojic, who spreads purity and innocence like an STD.  She even has weird hair like Princess Leia.

One of the reasons the Douglas Campbell Theatre occupies a special place in my heart is because that’s where I get to see those rarely-produced, non-canonical works.  Thanks to an informative Bard program, I now know that scholars consider the first nine scenes of Pericles to have been written by George Wilkins while ‘ol Bill is responsible for the rest.  Lay that one on ‘em at Trivia Tuesday!  All of the Bard shows live up to their rep, but Pericles is the cherry on top of this sundae of a season.

Pericles plays in repertory with Othello under the Bard on the Beach tents at Vancouver, BC’s, lovely Vanier Park.  The drive and the border hassles are all worth it and you can see the schedule and score tickets at the Bard website.

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