Pericles by William Sakespeare
One of the most unlikely co-productions ever was announced last week. The Royal Shakespeare Company is to co-produce Pericles with theatre company Cardboard Citizens in a disused warehouse off the Old Kent Road in London.
This unusual partnership was initiated two years ago by Clare Venables (the RSC's Director of Education) and Adrian Jackson (the Artistic Director of Cardboard Citizens.)
"On paper it may seem a curious collision," says Adrian Jackson, who will be directing the production, "but here we are, and it should be exciting. I am looking forward to the tremendous expertise the RSC can bring to bear on the production, in terms of voice, verse and its vast experience of staging Shakespeare - and equally I am hoping that Cardboard Citizens' experience of site-specific work, and of less theatre-sophisticated audiences, can in turn have some effect on the RSC; something between a bit of rough and grit in the oyster."
Venables and Jackson looked at a lot of plays before deciding on Pericles. Its themes of exile, loss and reunion seemed to be entirely pertinent to Cardboard Citizens, which attracts many people seeking refuge, whether from troubles at home or strife abroad.
In the spring of this year, with an asylum seeker playing the lead role, a rapidly rehearsed cut-down version of Pericles was performed to audiences of asylum seekers and refugees in various unusual venues across London. The audiences included Iraqis, Kosovo Albanians, Kurds, Turks, Colombians, Iranians and people from various African countries. After the hour long show the audience members told their stories, stories of survival against the odds, stories of unbelievable pain, and stories of hope and endurances. The aim of this new production is to interweave some of these stories and others within a fuller version of Shakespeare's play.