The Pearl @ Pleasance Courtyard

Dumbshow bring their adaptation of a John Steinbeck novella to the Fringe with their usual creative flair and imagination

Review by Kayleigh Donaldson | 09 Aug 2013
  • The Pearl @ Pleasance Courtyard

When pearl diver Kino’s son falls ill, he frantically searches for a bounty to pay for the doctor and discovers ‘the pearl of the world’ that promises to change his family’s lives for the better. As word of the pearl spreads, bringing out the worst in everyone, Kino is blind to the dangers of his luck and the effect it has on him.

From the ever innovative and creative company Dumbshow, springs The Pearl – a John Steinbeck novella based on an old Mexican fable. As expected of Steinbeck, a happy ending is out of the question, but that doesn’t mean the company can’t make the concept fun while simultaneously causing tears to fall.

The moral of this fable is a simple one – beware the corrupting power of wealth – but evocatively told in the dream-like manner Dumbshow do so well. The characters of The Pearl are the trodden down and ignored of society, immediately exploited once they’re seen as possessing something of worth. The more Kino tries to fight the unfair circumstances of his lot in life and become “a man,” the more he finds himself turning into that which he is trying to escape. His search for what he sees as the true definition of masculinity is particularly interesting given that five of the impeccable ensemble’s six actors are female.

The fairytale-style story is narrated by a group of warm and welcoming beachcombers who also take on the supporting roles of the story, composing striking and often very beautiful scenarios from the simplest of objects found on the shores. A composition of fishing floats stands in for Kino and his wife’s baby to surprisingly emotional effect. A simple arrangement of sticks and a white sheet forms the impoverished pearl diver’s boat. Sting-rays and jellyfish of old buckets and sheets move across the stage to hilarious effect. The anachronistic musical choices of Barbra Streisand and The Little Mermaid are surprisingly fitting and elicit more than a few giggles.

The playfulness and charm of the performers conjure up countless striking images throughout the play and it’s worth the ticket price alone just to watch the seemingly limitless possibilities created by the team.

If you’re unfamiliar with the work of Dumbshow then you’re in for a real treat with The Pearl, an imaginative and incredibly emotional morality tale on greed, corruption and the truly important things in life. If you’re a fan of the rising company then you know not to miss out on this dream-like offering. Catch them before they start selling out the big theatres.


The Pearl @ Pleasance Courtyard. Until 26 Aug (not 13), 12.30pm, 70 minutes, £9.50/£9