Pegasus Theatre’s wonderfully evocative production, based on John Steinbeck’s classic fable The Pearl, is a triumph of imaginative staging.
From the first salty exchanges between the fisherfolk in their flotsam and jetsam world and the audience, there is magic in the air. The audience willingly suspends disbelief as we are transported to a simpler world of shoreline subsistence living, and underwater adventure.
‘Luck, you see, brings bitter friends’, Steinbeck wrote, and when Kino, a simple fisherman (Michael Bryher – who also directs) finds a pearl of great price, something ‘infinitely black and evil’ awakes in the town.
His wife Joanna (superb Hester Bond) senses danger, and begs her husband to toss the pearl back in to the sea, or crush it between two boulders, to destroy its seductive power.
Yet both dream of a better future for their newborn baby Coyotito – a fabulously constructed infant of flotsam, cared for with infinite tenderness by Bond.
The pearl, now ‘heavy’ and lacking its initial lustre, cannot be got rid of so easily. The family are no longer alone with their good fortune. Everyone now becomes related to Kino’s pearl, and Kino, as the one who stands between his neighbours and the prize, ‘curiously becomes every man’s enemy.’
Instead of security, the pearl brings danger. Instead of life-giving, it becomes life-threatening. The family, once content, becomes dangerously fractured. Instead of enhancing their future, the pearl threatens to destroy it.
The beautiful flotsam set, the eclectic collection of beachcombed objects, the sou’westers and gumboots, the insatiable curiosity of the land folk towards the sea: all this was evoked, and so much more.
Clever use of mime and synchronised movement devised by Edd Mitton created a wondrous underwater world; the strong rhythms of life were beaten out through slow dance. We were transported to a world of crashing breakers, great honeycombed cliffs – and treachery, attracted to good fortune like a malign magnet.
Sensitive acting by the entire cast creates a mood of mellow reflectiveness, which spirals into madness and despair. Yet as the first flakes of hope appear, after the storm of loss, Rollo Clarke’s superb score carries us beyond the tragedy, to hope.