The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare Directed by Edgar Metcalf Graduate Dramatic Society
New Fortune Theatre 6-7 11-14 18-21 March 2009
This is a very interesting play, one I've never seen before, and tonight's production by Grads did it justice.
Venice - a colourful, exotic kaleidoscopic crossroads of cultures and beliefs, there's pageantry, and a bit of mummery and pantomine and fairy tale in this. There's some very powerful elements here, and the exuberance of the cast really filled it full of energy.
Add to this the setting in Mussolini's Italy of the late 1930's and you have a very intense mix indeed, and the pressures on Shylock must have been immense. Played by Barry Park with a delicate balance between sympathetic/unsympathetic we are the more appalled by what Shylock's thirst for revenge leads him to demand, as we know that he is capable of such sublime insights.
There was apparently a bit of a glitch with the appearance of Tubal, but Shylock convinced me, at least, that it was part of the play. It was only afterwards that comments amongst the cast alerted me that we should, perhaps, not have been waiting quite that long for his appearance.
Listen for the sweet singing voice of Laura Djanegara (Jessica) at the play's conclusion, it is one of the many highlights of the play.
If it were not for the well measured and cadenced humour throughout the play it would be rather too intense a production to watch comfortably (not that some of it is comfortable viewing), but it's very watchable and most enjoyable.
The interaction between Portia ( Dianne Savina) and Nerissa (Miley Tunnelcliffe) is also quite charming, and the Gobbos (Matt Longman and the indefatigable David Goodall) are played with great humour. The two princes: Steve Shanaz (who cut a very fine figure, quite definitely the most handsomely impressive on on stage) and Peter Clark were enormous fun, and the Portia's reactions to them most amusing.
Having a real musician on stage was a really excellent touch, thank you to Simon Bush.
Conversation between Antonio (Martin Forsey), Solanio (Michael Lamont), Salarino (Tom Rees), Bassanio (David Cotgreave), Lorenzo (David Bruce), and Bratiano (Grant Watson) were snappy and full of humour and life, there's a lot of them to go through, and the cast gamely kept it moving and energised, and the small but enraptured audience was kept interested and its attention held.
Some very mythic elements really, this is stuff that resonates way back. Visceral stuff, I was reminded of what happened when Loki's head was forfeited to the Dwarves...
Princely suitors for a lady's hand, choosing from a box of silver, lead or gold...riddles....rings that go missing and then are restored. Oh, the symbolism *there*, though it's a nice change it's not the lady's chastity that needs restoring.
I'll be interested to see other productions of this play. It really appeals to me.
8.5 out of 10 and finding a Faberge' Egg made completely out of Easter Egg wrappers made of gold, silver, lead, rubies, emeralds, jubes, sapphires and Fantails on the Sid and Nancy Scale.