The Globe season continues with Pericles, Prince of Tyre. As with many Shakespeare plays the Bankside locality and characters play their part.
The narrator is the 14th century poet John Gower, whose 'Confessio Amantis' is based on an ancient Greek romance and who is memorialised in nearby Southwark cathedral. Several lusty scenes ostensibly take place in the 'stews'. However, Kathryn Hunter's 'modern practices' production is worlds away from home. Gower is engagingly played by Patrice Naimambana as an African story teller and sage, with fitting music improvised on a traditional one-string 'goge' . His audience asides may not be completely authentic (with comments about refugees, passports and ad libs with members of the audience) but he charms hois way through.
Pericles is played as an old man by a dignified Corin Redgrave, tracing his journey through life in a younger version confusingly played in a German accent by Robert Lucksay. According to the programme the plot hinges on the discovery by Pericles of an act of incest by the King of Antioch, which puts his life in danger. Pericles then embarks on a series of journeys escaping assassins.
Each journey involves a storm and shipwreck, with 'the great Globe itself' heaving dramatically in the storms conjured up with bodies, ropes and sails and aerial exploits. The circus theme continues in a comic tournament for which the shipwrecked Pericles arrives just in time to compete against Olympian knights for the hand of Princess Thaisa. He wins, they marry. Their child is due to be born when they are shipwrecked again. Thaisa apparently dies in childbirth and is thrown overboard and the child Marina is fostered by old friends. After an interlude when Marina is captured by pirates and imprisoned in a Greek brothel, she impresses the local Governor with her purity and she is allowed to live a simple life of music and embroidery.
After many twists there is a lengthy reconciliation scene as Marina recognises Pericles and a resusitated Thaisa is reunited with her family.
I found this production lively but exhausting; it has an exciting global vision with many topical themes. However, for me, in the end, it lacked a clear enough message.
• In repertory until 1 October 2005 at Shakespeare's Globe, Bankside