The Merchant of Venice

Thu 19th – Sat 28th February 2015


Holly Humphrey

at 23:06 on 24th Feb 2015



On paper this much loved Shakespeare rendition is everything that ones desires; with experienced cast, crew and director. As a fan of Shakespeare, I wanted to like this rendition of one of my favourite plays, so I began the performance with an open mind.

As one walked into the theatre, you could see the hand of mastery on the set design. With a floor to look like the watery base of Venice and sails to mock not only a harbour, but also billowing curtains of a palace, the scenes could be clearly defined from one another in the most appealing of ways.

The play had definite elements of light and shade bringing an old tale to life, with marvellous actors who conveyed the passion that Shakespeare intended. In the first light-heartened scene we saw Portia, played by Kate Cavendish, and her maid Nerissa, played by Amy Barnes, conveyed a hysterical mockery of her less than desirable suitors. With accents fluently changed, and stereotyping of each different suitor's country, the scene provided a light hearted alternative to the subtle tones of Shakespeare’s underlying theme of racism. Overall, this scene was entertaining and enjoyable for audience as we felt like we were indulging in some devious gossip with our friends! In addition, other parts that were note worthy include the character of Bassanio, played by Sam Woolf, and Portia’s casket scene. This endearing scene of true love taking its course was heart-warming and brought a warm smile with it.

On the other hand the cast and crew did make some mistakes that distracted me from the genius that is this play. Technical difficulties of music dipping in and out were distracting for the audience, and took us out of Venice and straight back into a very rainy Bristol- something less than desired. The music’s soft tones set the scene for the play and therefore the disruption of it was a travesty. Moreover, on more than one occasion, several members of the cast evidently forgot their lines mid-speech. This again broke the magic of Shakespeare’s verse and made us aware that these were actors and not the characters they so well portrayed. Every actor is allowed mistakes, but for multiple cast members to make this mistake made it noticeable and quite frankly disruptive.

On a lighter subject there were moments of this play that brought a genuine tear to my eye, like the last speech Antonio makes before he is summoned to Shylocks demand. In this tearful goodbye to his friend Bassanio, Antonio, played by Zed Josef, brought such emotion and sealed anguish to this speech that I thought it did the play justice.

Overall, it was an enjoyable play, despite some of its faults, which rejuvenated this much-loved play into an entertaining evening.


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