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Pericles Redux
Written by Susannah Radford   
Published on Tuesday, 19 August 2008

NOT MAN APART, the Californian Company responsible for last year's Fringe First winner Wish I Had A Sylvia Plath, bring their own brand of bardery to the Pleasance this year in the form of Pericles Redux.  Based on Shakespeare's play, it's the physical comedy version of Pericles' tale of travel and adventure, love and loss.

Unlike the storms that thrash against Pericles' boat at the beginning of the play, the physical comedy takes a while to find its momentum - and the show is pretty dry in humour until they reach the island of Tyre.  But as soon as Pericles reaches Tyre, a bit of cross-dressing changes all that.  The company seem very comfortable with, and have a real proclivity for, physical comedy; the tournament fight and dance are standouts in the silly stakes.  The actors who play the three Fates work well as a comedy trio, and Alexander Rogers lends a camp humour as Simonides and Dionyza's daughter.

Meanwhile, John Farmanesh-Bocca carries the weight of the titular and more serious character of Pericles, gracefully combining both the light-hearted with the grave.  The reunion with his daughter is very moving.

As expected from this company, this is a very physical telling of the story which works well in conveying one of Shakespeare's lesser-known plays.  The movement and dance help build tone and urgency.  The dance element could be pushed further choreographically, particularly using the Three Fates to make them a real force to contend with; but otherwise, the dance predominantly works with the narrative.

Physical comedy is definitely a strength for Not Man Apart; unfortunately the language is not as effective.  Shakespeare's poetry at times is delivered in a declamatory manner and it ends up playing second fiddle to the action.  Having said this, the comedy drives the piece forward so it doesn't feel greatly lacking.  It's a hard mix to get right, balancing the tragedy with comedy and the language with movement; with a deeper focus on the language, Not Man Apart will certainly achieve it.

In such a secular age, the presence of the Three Fates is intriguing.  These three goddesses individually spun the yarn of birth, measured the length of life and cut it at death.  But rather than the goddesses of Greek mythology, Pericles Redux's Fates are three muscular men who thread their way in and out of the story.  Athletic, imposing and very physical, they move with strength and grace.  Dressed in black, they seem an ominous presence; but since the actors double as other characters, they begin to feel like a benign force that is sent to aid Pericles in times of trouble.  And if you were Pericles, you'd be pretty pleased to get all the help you could.

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