REVIEW: Pericles – Flute Theatre

This time of isolation can be difficult for most, but those with Autism can experience it to a much higher degree. With Pericles, Flute Theatre have developed their outstanding work in the arts to enable them to continue supporting young people with Autism, giving them and their families a fantastic outlet for their creative energy and helping to combat the anxieties which this crisis has brought.

Pericles is the story of a Prince who, after escaping for his life, falls in love and has a child, only to lose his wife and daughter at sea – seemingly for good.

Working from Shakespeare’s Pericles might seem like a huge task, given the enormity of his tale, but Kelly Hunter and her team at Flute seem to take this in stride, adapting the story by breaking it down to ten or so bite size scenes. This kind of adaptation is very much at the heart of Rehearsal Room craft – analysing and simplifying the story to understand the journey of the characters and their relationships, drawing out the more confusing and entangling plot points and side characters. In this way, what Flute have done is not only engage young people in performance, but also to begin embedding key performance skills as they progress in life.

The entire performance is an interactive experience through online conferencing, where each actor is webcammed in from their own space, and in a theatre space we are joined by a young performer who has been invited to take part in the performance. For obvious reasons, this is taking a step away from Flute’s usual technique of an open space where the actors, young participants and their families are all in the same space together, but I must say that it works incredibly well. The team give the performance a beautifully warm and personal touch, constantly referencing and involving the young man who is performing with them, keeping him engaged whilst driving the story forward at a suitable pace.

The performance, which is predominantly interactive, has moments for watching where we learn more detail about what is going on, and moments for getting involved where we experience the action of the characters and explore their relationships. Flute have developed their sensory games in this new online medium, using repeating phrases and musicality, physical theatre and characterisation, all designed to bring the young performer into the action of the story in a free and expressive way and it clearly has an effect given the resulting performance. This form of interactive performance is such a pleasure to watch and it’s impossible not to get involved – I still find myself whistling along to the tunes of the show.

Led by Artistic Director Kelly Hunter, the cast do a superb job managing to capture real emotion and grit in their performances, using their whole bodies even when that might be a struggle in their private spaces, and always keeping it grounded and personal to those involved. It must also be credited that, in all technical aspects, this company have accomplished performing through video conferencing down to a T, there is a lot to learn from Flute on how to produce great online theatre!

With a focus on inclusivity and true commitment to the character, I find this performance of Pericles an absolute delight and I commend Flute for their fantastic work inspiring young people with the wonder of theatre.

Pericles is available to view until 18th July. For more information and to book, go to Flute Theatre’s website.