The cast of Pericles
National Theatre presents Pericles: first Public Acts production12:01, 29th August 2018
‘A nation’s worth is truly shown by how they treat a stranger, not their own.’
I felt an impulse to burst into mid-scene spontaneous applause when this line rang out in Chris Bush’s new version of Periclesfor the National Theatre’s inaugural Public Acts performance. Inspired by the New York Public Theater’s ‘Public Works’ initiative, Public Acts marks the centre point of a two-year partnership between the National Theatre, Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch, and eight organisations who deliver visionary work in their communities: Bromley by Bow Centre, Body & Soul, Coram, DABD, Havering Asian Social Welfare Association (HASWA), Open Age, Thames Reach and The Faith & Belief Forum.
Amateur performers recruited through these community partners joined professional actors and seven cameo performance groups on the Olivier stage, for three nights only at the end of August, to deliver an uplifting, inspiring and heartwarming piece of theatre, written by Chris Bush, directed by NT Resident Director Emily Lim and with music composed by Jim Fortune.
Exceptional performances from Ashley Zhangazha and Naana Agyei-Ampadu stand at the heart of the professional cast, but of the entire production only these and three others are members of Equity, the rest being a wonderfully diverse group of amateur performers from all over London: of whom special mention must be made of little Mieko Wertheim and Helen Adesanya, both of whom stole the hearts of the sold-out audience.
The colour and vibrancy of the production, and the emotional message of the importance of family, love, and cross-cultural acceptance, combined to produce a moving evening which really felt like it fulfilled the brief of a National Theatre. Pericles was billed as the ‘first’ Public Acts production: long may this initiative continue.