Last night Taffety Punk, one of the local theater companies, put on Bootleg Shakespeare’s Pericles, Prince of Tyre. While I’ve enjoyed a couple of their all-female Riot Grrls Shakespeare performances, this was my first Bootleg. In Bootleg performances, the actors learn their lines in advance, then have one day together to stage the show. The props are minimal, costumes understated, and the sets nonexistent.
The tickets are general admission and only available in person at 5:00 on the day of the show. I hopped on the metro and got caught in a rush hour storm on my way to the Folger Shakespeare Theatre. Once I got to the theatre, it really started pouring.
I waited it out for about 20 minutes and headed to Barrel, a bar that has quite a list of bourbon. The menu looked pretty tasty too, but I’ll try that out another time. I enjoyed my Four Roses single barrel and the playlist in the bar (Neutral Milk Hotel and Beastie Boys?) until it was time to head back to the show.
The crowd looped around inside, eager to find a seat. I was lucky to get a good one.
In the first act, Pericles travels the ocean to flee Antioch after solving a riddle that reveals a secret about the King Antiochus and his daughter (eww). His trusty vessel, two broomsticks carried by his crew (think the clip-clop coconuts in Monty Python’s Holy Grail) takes him to Tarsus. The land is suffering a famine. After giving the King Cleon and Queen Dionyza food for their citizens, he sets sail again. He is then shipwrecked in Pentopolis, where the King is holding a contest to marry his daughter Thaisa. Pericles wins. Here, the Bootleggers broke out into a dance, set to David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance.” And, of course, Pericles and Thaisa fall in love.
When they set sail to rule his land, a big storm rallies.
Then… After a believing his bride died in childbirth and was thrown overboard, but really she survived and became a Priestess of Diana, and also believing that his daughter Marina was killed out of jealously by King Cleon on Queen Dionyza (jerks), but was in fact sold into prostitution by pirates (but was never sullied), the trio are finally reunited. In this world, the virtuous are rewarded. (After being dealt a pretty crappy hand.)… Whew.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more energetic performance. There was a just a hint of tongue in cheek tapping on the fourth wall, which drew in the audience. We were not only in on the joke, but we also got in on the action, providing a trumpeting “do-do-dooo!” whenever the director (prompter?) yelled “flourish!”
The actors owned it. The subtly self-aware attitude was so expertly balanced with quality acting that it only added to the performance.
The Taffety Punk Theatre Company’s next performance (Sept 4-Oct 4, 2014) will celebrate their 10th anniversary. They are doing a new version of The Devil in His Own Words their first show.