From a Greek speaker
To begin with, Pericles by Shakespeare is not a play about Pericles, the symbol of Ancient Athens Democracy as many of us might have expected, especially because the production was from the National Theatre of Greece. It is instead about Pericles from Tyros, Middle East and his adventures in Antiochia. Secondly, this rarely performed play is beautiful… And the translation was beautiful as well-to some it could sound all Greek, but coming from the place, I promise I understood what they were saying…
The company came in with great energy and took over the space. They made themselves at home and established an excellent relationship with the audience at once. Most intense presence via expressive physicality and high quality acting justified the choices. The story-telling was clear and the alteration of characters in a Brechtian way kept everyone on edge. Hard though it is, I was trying to watch as if I did not know the language; and it seems things worked really well. The signals were clear, crystal. The song and live percussion was one of the most engaging highlights. Along with the use of the beautiful costumes to transform from one character to the other.
The magnitude and the experience of Tragedy as if in Epidavros (Epidaurus) matched the respect to a brilliant Shakespeare text through a great sense of humour and awareness of the immediacy the Globe demands. This unison and the excitement from it took Theatre as a universal means of communication a big step further.
Unavoidably touched and proud for Chris Loulis, Stefania Goulioti, Minas Hatzisavvas, Lydia Fotopoulou, Maria Skoula, Dimitris Piatas, Yannis Vogiatzis, Yannis Cotanides and the rest of the cast.
Poetry without words
What is popular folk theatre in this country? Is it street performers? Student types in flat caps and braces? Or West End musicals that get people dancing in the aisles?
The Globe architecture gives us a feel for folk theatre just standing in the yard. That’s where today’s Greek performers started, walking through the crowd and chatting with us. Then a song – and singing and drumming throughout. No PA system for this troupe. It was live and lively.
Playful too. Had me thinking, is it possible to play words like music? Critics wax wobbly-kneed and lyrical about the music of Shakespeare’s language, but the National Theatre of Greece showed me something fresh. Performing the play to an audience who don’t speak their language, they demonstrate that Shakespeare’s poetry goes beyond words. Can you say there’s poetry in sharing? In giving something intangible to an audience and its offering something back? Is their poetry in imagination?
I can’t pretend to have got my head round it yet. It wasn’t just airy fairy and sharey either. The folk aesthetic suited the technical demands of Pericles’s exploits and kept up our imaginative agility, jumping through time, across oceans, from place to place and back again. The far-fetched narrative and multi-roling was bound together by the ever-preset ensemble. Once on the stage, they won’t leave until their story’s done.
The ancient tradition of storytelling is right at the heart of this Pericles. Before we even begin, the actors mingle with the audience, wishing us luck for the performance; it would appear we will be strutting and fretting our part in this production too. The call ‘Let’s play’ goes up and the National Theatre of Greece has arrived.
‘Play’ is just what they do. The production has been running since November but there is nothing stagnant or rehearsed about these actors. The wooden stage becomes the earthy, beachy setting for our ancient Greek tale, the beautiful pillars are almost forgotten as the traditional Mediterranean Outi and homophonic chant take us back in time.
Actors and musicians alike embody elements, animals and abstract feelings as all remain on the stage throughout, bending, weaving (and swimming) their way through the story. Circular staging is constantly revisited, mirrored by our wooden O, so I do indeed feel we are a part of the story: we all listen around a great campfire to a tale of Greek heritage and our opinions, actions and reactions form part of the drama.
Comic brilliance regularly lifts us out of the ethereal. Highlights include a row of punters with trousers round their ankles, shame faced as Mariana hits them with a metaphorical cold spoon. Another hilarious moment is provided by the three fisherman, slipping between Greek and English as they bumble through the business of discovering Pericles on the shore. ‘Did anybody, talk?’ asks one upon hearing a moan, ‘Did anybody talk, again?’ he repeats after hearing another.
This festival constantly amazes me in its diversity but every company is ultimately doing the same thing, telling a Shakespeare story. Approaches are widely and dramatically different and always inspiring; this is one of the simplest, yet most beautiful. The audience certainly enjoyed it, ‘I wish I’d done that’ I hear as I leave.
Greek painting comes alive on the Globe Stage
On 26 April I watched from the yard, Pericles performed by the National Theatre of Greece in Greek. I was watching with the other Young Directors when a guy came to us and started to chat. I was wondering who he was, and it turned out that he was one of the character in the play. I was slightly confused and had a look around. There were actors all over the place chatting with the audience. The play hadn’t started yet and I already loved it. A man, maybe the stage manager, came at 2.30 and shouted to the actors to start. This was an amazing opening into an even more amazing version of Pericles.
We all know the Globe is an open air theatre so we see birds flying and we hear the airplanes. This can be disturbing but the cast of Pericles found a wonderful solution to this problem. As soon as the heard the noise of an airplane, they stopped their scene and went to the middle to see where the noise was coming from. A very likeable quirk and one with the guarantee of laughter.
This version of Pericles was how theatre should be at the Globe. There was pure interaction with the audience. The actors interacting with and reacting to the audience, had to improvise. For example: Pericles was very hungry and asked the audience in English: “Has anybody anything. I’m starving” The audience was a very nice one and gave him food. As this reaction was not planned they had to improvise within the scene.
I could give more examples for the interaction but there were so many. They included the audience in little jokes and games as well as with songs they sang in the style of the Greek chorus.
After the show I met some of the actors. Christos Loulis, the actor who was playing Pericles was more than happy. His opinion towards the audience was: “The audience was ready to like everything.”