9 September 2006 | tonstant viewer
This play is a sprawling epic, with just about every plot device in the writer's manual to justify a thick paperback for airplane or beach reading, or an overheated TV miniseries - lovers parted for over a decade, storms at sea, multiple shipwrecks, a virgin menaced in a whorehouse, a homicidal step-mother, a contract killing, characters who return from the dead, a kidnapping by pirates, incest, portentous dream figures, chaste priestesses and goodness knows what else.
What you don't want is for all this voluptuous over-plotting to get bogged down. And that's precisely what happens here.
It's possible the text could have withstood another round of pruning. It's certain that what is performed here would have benefited from a stronger sense of pace.
The actors themselves are almost uniformly excellent. Amanda Redman as Miranda is superlative, and Juliet Stevenson as Thaisa surprises with a soft, romantic radiance absent from her later gallery of grotesque comic roles (and she dances sexy, too). The supporting cast does not disappoint.
Don Taylor's production design is quite striking, and Martin Best's musical score is among the best in the series.
The villains, however, are three. Mike Gwilym who normally recites Shakespeare about as well as anybody, and excels as Berowne in "Love's Labour's Lost" and Aufidius in "Coriolanus," fumbles this assignment. His Pericles is small, self-involved, under-energized and under-vocalized. Often his voice extends no further than the tip of his nose, and even in tight closeup, we need more.
Likewise Edward Petherbridge, memorable for his Newman Noggs in "Nicholas Nickleby," is downright annoying as a lethargic Gower, who materializes periodically to offer leaden apologies for the length of the story (in a most peculiar accent), and hints at all the stuff that got left out, for which we are truly thankful, amen. This Chorus figure does not energize the audience, but narcotizes it further.
I am inclined to blame the faults of these first two miscreants on the third, the director, David Hugh Jones. There is no discernible shape or pulse here at all, and the result is a lumpy, endless mess. With this overabundance of raw material, one wants a firm directorial hand and a vigorous sense of story-telling, and one doesn't get them.
It looks great, sounds good, and may even produce a tear at the final fadeout, Shakespeare being Shakespeare, but it is not a performance. That's a shame, because when will we see somebody else take a shot at it on TV?