Friday, February 19, 2016

Trevor Nunn's Pericles

Last night I saw Trevor Nunn's beautifully directed and designed production of Pericles, Prince of Tyre at Theatre for a New Audience.

Two years ago, the same company had a hit with John Douglas Thompson in Tamburlaine by Christopher Marlowe. I knew I wanted to see this production, not just because of the company, but because Theatre for a New Audience had brought in Nunn to direct.

As well as directing Les Miserables and Nicholas Nickleby, Nunn has also had a distinguished film career, introducing Helena Bonham Carter to the world in Lady Jane and directing a brilliant film adaptation of Twelfth Night in 1996. While I've seen Pericles many times, including a lovely version by The Public Theater, I definitely wanted to see Nunn's take on the play.

In his production notes, Nunn writes that for Shakespeare, writing Pericles "had an enormous career-changing effect" turning him from the dark tragedy of plays like King Lear to the later Romances: The Winter's Tale, Cymbeline, and The Tempest. Nunn even argues that Shakespeare's late collaboration with John Fletcher, Henry VIII, is influenced by the joyous redemption found in Pericles.

Even more interestingly, Nunn notes there is "a strong indication that some passages should be sung." Indeed, Nunn has quite a bit of the text sung, utilizing composer Shaun Davey and players and musicians from the PigPen Theatre Co. Shortly after Raphael Nash Thompson enters as the poet John Gower, he begins to sing, and music and dancing return several times during the show.

When I was in college, I played the bit role of Escanes in the play, and I was particularly happy to hear Will Swenson deliver those show-stopping lines "'Twas very strange" and "'Tis very true." Christian Camargo plays the title role of Pericles, transforming from a hopeful young man at the beginning to an old man at the end, battered about by life, but ultimately finding peace.

In many ways, however, the star of this production is the set, designed with elegant simplicity by Robert Jones. The set's revealing of the goddess Diana (played by Nina Hellman) is particularly affecting.

If you want to see the show, it's playing until March 27th. You can find more information here:

Theatre for a New Audience