Theatre Review: Pericles in Regent’s Park

Shakespeare’s PERICLES is re-imagined as an enchanting midsummer panto in the park.

Pericles – a collaboration between Shakespeare and George Wilkins which didn’t appear in the First Folio – is probably just as new to most adults as it is to children.

This rarity proves to be an inspired choice for the Open Air Theatre’s annual family show as Natalie Abrahami has created an enchanting adventure for all ages, filled with pirates, sailors, storms, origami fish and jaunty songs (by Tom Mills). With Hannah Clark’s candy-coloured design and plenty of audience banter, it’s like a midsummer panto in the park.

A prologue in modern English sets the scene. Marina, in the care of the horrid Queen Dionyza, longs to be reunited with her father and asks the audience to help her. As the story moves back in time to Marina’s birth at sea, so does the language. It’s sanitised slightly by replacing a brothel with a seaside freakshow, generating cries of “That’s Ariel!” when Marina appears as a mermaid in a red wig.

The ensemble of six create the impression of a much larger cast, executing the many quick changes with great aplomb. Indeed, the clarity of the storytelling and lightness of touch would be welcome in any more traditional production.

There’s spirited work from Liza Pulman in all her roles (particularly the wicked queen) and Gary Milner’s Pericles is effectively noble and grief-stricken. Top honours, however, go to Hara Yannas’s resilient and very lovable Marina, who is delightful to watch and a splendid role model for young girls in the audience.

* Showing at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, Inner Circle, NW1, until Saturday, July 23.