Stratford-upon-Avon College’s Performing and Production Arts department performed a modern interpretation of one of William Shakespeare’s lesser-known plays on Wednesday 12th and Thursday 13th February.
Acting students presented a creative re-imagining of Pericles in the College’s Gordon Vallins Studio, while Technical Theatre students produced behind-the-scenes miracles, ensuring a successful performance.
Shakespeare’s Pericles is a story of loss, adventure and heartbreak, in which the hero mistakenly believes his wife has died in childbirth and his daughter is kidnapped by pirates, but which ends with the family being happily reunited.
The College’s imaginative production was set in a Bosnian refugee camp, and the students delivered the compelling tale through movement, music, dance, object transformation and storytelling.
Orlaigh Dempsey-Clark, 18 from Brackley, who played the roles of both the physician Cerimon and the wife of King Simonides, described the performance as “Shakespeare as you’ve never seen or lived it before.”
She explained: “It’s a very modern take on the play and we added to the story slightly to include a comment on the contemporary refugee crisis. A group of child refugees finds a copy of the Pericles text and decides to perform the play as a distraction from their situation.”
Shakespeare, whom the students study as part of their course, can be problematic for school pupils, the language in particular acting as a barrier to their understanding. Orlaigh believes that to encourage children to learn about his work, performers need to “find new ways to make his plays accessible. This performance, because it’s set in the modern day and even includes iPhones, is easier for a young audience to relate to.”
Orlaigh, who hopes to progress to Bristol Old Vic stage school to continue her training and ultimately to return to Stratford and perform with the RSC, is delighted with the progress she has made at College. Reflecting on her Acting course, she commented: “I left school with quite low self-esteem but my course made sure I was thrown into incredible performances straight away and given the support I needed to fully embody different characters, which helped me immensely. It’s unbelievably valuable.”