By Danielle Farrow
Year Out Drama Company – offering training and experience to recent school leavers – presents Story Shakespeare yearly at the Fringe, offering a Shakespeare play which uses some of the text, but is mostly a modern telling of the story, with much movement and choral musicality. This year, director Matthew Warburton and musical supervisor Joseph Atkins (with a current and an ex student as musical directors) bring the less-oft-performed Pericles to life as a tale told by fisher folk who are keen on songs as well as fables.
Pericles is a journeying hero, much plagued by storms, who is hunted by an enemy and gains and loses both wife and child, both of whom have their own tribulations to live through, until Shakespeare gives all three their happy ending. In this production, there are running jokes, not just about what pleases the fisher folk, but also about where on earth the action is taking place now. These are fun, informative and excellently help clear story-telling. Another, surprisingly clear, aspect of the narrative is the way in which the audience can follow which characters they are watching, because this strong ensemble company swaps the players about throughout the performance but there is never any doubt as to whom they are playing.
The strong music component, with several performers playing instruments and the entire company singing, brings some beautiful sounds to the space, aisles being used as well as the main stage floor. The musical interludes are both simple and complex, with a mix of composers and lyricists from different periods, some music created for Shakespeare’s words, and a strong religious feel, in keeping with role of deity in the story, though in more of a Christian vein than that of the original’s Greek setting. There are a couple of occasions when music and dance seem to halt the forward momentum of the piece slightly, but they pass pleasantly enough.
The real skill of the company, dressed in comfortably flowing shirts and trousers, white except for the blue trousers of the chorus fishers, is in their ensemble playing and focused energy, directed to be clear, entertaining and really tell their story with humour and understanding. There are a few lighting changes that subtly support the performance, but the generally simple design allows the storytelling to shine through with its own details, rooted in performance.
Story Shakespeare: Pericles is another entertaining, well-crafted production from Year Out Drama and delights in its thoughtful simplicity – an entertaining tale, achieving moments of emotional pathos, well-told.