Category Archives: plays

Hail Pericles, Prince of Tyre


On Saturday, in Stratford Ontario, I saw ‘The Adventures of Pericles’ by William Shakespeare.

The play was staged at the Tom Patterson Theatre, which always makes me think of a converted hockey arena. However, I am unkind. The building started life as the winter home of the Stratford Badminton Club.

It’s a classic Shakespearean stage with an enormous tongue, so that most of the seats are on either side of the stage, instead of in front of it. Like all Shakespearean plays all the props must be carried on stage and off again by the actors. When staging a play that covers five different cities, a birth aboard a ship in a storm, and a shipwreck the director has some challenges. Pericles moves around a lot.

One particular effective staging was the birth scene aboard a boat in a storm. A hawser was used to outline the boat on the stage, where actors held onto it and pitched in the storm. White sheets from the top of the four poster bed became the sails, and within the bed, the babe is born and the mother dies.

The four-hundred and eighty patrons that make up the audience are close to the action. There is nothing to separate the audience from the actors, and, if you wanted to, you could run onto the stage during the production. I didn’t. I have a feeling that doing something like that would get me turfed from the theatre, and possible put in jail.

What this means for the patrons on the first row is that the fight scenes are not just in your face, they are almost in your lap. You can’t help ducking when they start swinging their swords.

You can gather that I enjoyed it more than I expected. Small wonder it was such a hit within Shakespeare’s life. The writing in the second act shows the bards touch with words. In one scene, Marina, who has been kidnapped and sold to a brothel in Mytilene, saves her virginity by convincing the men that they should seek virtue. As this unfolded before us, no one coughed or shuffled their feet or fiddle. The audience held their breath.

Then a little later, Pericles who has fallen into a deep depression discovers in the woman sent to care for him, his daughter. Remembering the scene today brings more tears to my eyes. His joy and happiness filled the place.

I’d like to see another staging of this play. I don’t know how much of my enjoyment rests with this particular performance rather than the work itself. Perhaps Scott Wentworth turned a weak play into an enjoyable one. If that’s the case imagine what he might do with better material.

If you live within driving distance of Ontario, consider coming to Stratford to see this play.

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Stratford in the Summer



This summer I plan to see a couple of plays in Stratford Ontario. Every summer this small sleepy town, also known as the home of Justin Bieber, has a Shakespeare festival that involves three different theatres and close to a dozen different productions. Shakespeare shares the spotlight with Broadway musicals and Restoration plays.

My first play is The Adventures of Pericles by William Shakespeare. Stratford decided to change the name of the play from the original Pericles, Prince of Tyre. As with almost every Shakespearian play, Bill stole the plot from somewhere else. In this case he took it from Confessio Amantis (1393) by John Gower, an English poet and contemporary of Geoffrey Chaucer.

The play is set in Classical Greece. However, when staged in 1607, I doubt the company wore costumes from Ancient times. Stratford decided the perfect costumes for the play should set the story in Victorian England. I’ve seen stranger things done to the works of the bard.

That is not the only question about this play. How much did Shakespeare actually write? The play wasn’t included in the first Portfolio. Some scholars in the past have denied the Bard of Avon had any hand in it. Today, the general consensus is that he wrote about half.

The play’s likely co-author was George Wilkins. Who was he? Wilkins was an inn-keeper in Cow-Cross, London, an area that was “notorious as a haunt of whores and thieves”. Most biographical information about him derives from his regular appearance in criminal court records for thievery and acts of violence. Many of the charges against him involved violence against women.

Strangely enough, this work proved to be one of Shakespeare’s most popular during his lifetime.

The other play I plan to see is a comedy, ‘She stoops to Conquer’ by Oliver Goldsmith. As in most restoration comedies it involves love, marriage, and class. In this case the heroine pretends to be a servant when meeting the man her father wants to betroth her too.

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