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Nastazja Domaradzka

Review: PERICLES at The National Theatre

Pericles - National Theatre I’m not really sure how to express all of those things that I felt during the National Theatre’s first PUBLIC ACTS (a community theatre programme) project, PERICLES. I cried a lot, I laughed a lot, I felt joyful and I also felt relieved because PERICLES made me realise that not all is lost and bleak, that theatre still holds the power to change lives and allow for thousands of people to share something special together.

One hundred and twenty Londoners, together with many professional performers take over the stage of the Olivier Theatre, in what could be described as a revolutionary and theatre-changing moment. Written by Chris Bush and directed by Emily Lim, this musical adaptation of William Shakespeare’s PERICLES is an ode to the shared and equal nature of theatre; one of theatre’s aspects which quite often gets forgotten about when egos and elitism take over.

Chris Bush adapts the famous fable about the Prince of Tyre in an accessible and exicting way, ensuring that those members of community who are present on stage are not just a background for the professional actors but a vital part of the story. There is an incredible amount of talent on the stage including various choirs, dancers and acrobats. Fly Devis’ colourful and magical set allows for the Olivier stage to be overtaken by the celebration of many diverse and unique voices, who are often either misrepresented or underrepresented in the theatre industry. Not that I didn’t cry the whole way through but the last minutes of this production brought even more tears to my eyes as dozens of different languages were spoken on the Olivier stage, amongst them my mother tongue, Polish.

Ashley Zhangazha’s Pericles is a multidimensional character who embarks on a life changing journey throughout the play and Naana Agyei-Ampadu as Thaisa brings so much presence to the stage. These two leading actors make for an unforgettable duet, as the songs they share bring tears to many audience members.

There is something incredibly touching in the way Emily Lim orchestrates this massive ensemble in such a way to give equality to every single person present on stage. Community theatre is often frowned upon in so many ways and its performers patronised as if their work was somehow less worthy, but this is not the case in this spectactular production. Every theatre is community theatre and PERICLES really reminds us of the importance of treating one another with respect and love. We are all ordinary and unique, and we all deserve to shine. PERICLES is no doubt an unforgettable and beautiful start of something special and I can’t wait for more.