Saturday, 12 April 2008

Merchant of, er, Venice?

Shakespeare producttions and London buses - nothing for ages, then a whole bunch at once...

Over to Stratford on a breezy, blue spring evening for the first show in the new season.

You've guessed: that tricky one, the M of V, with a mainly very young cast directed by Tim Carroll, a new name to moi.

Carroll and his designer have gone for the more or less modern-dress option in a minimalist pinky-red setting.

Not much differentiation between the plays two settings: masculine world of Venice and Portia's upmarket base of Belmont. The famous casket scenes (when suitors attempt to solve the riddles that will allow them to win the sparky uber-heiress) appear to be set in an industrial deep freeze. (I'll check Bill's stage directions.)

And there was little attempt to acknowledge the play's central confrontation between Jewish and Gentile culture and faith.

Directorial approach reminded me of a nervous vet donning thick gauntlets to examine an unpredictable moggie - scared in case it bites or scratches.

So in terms of 'selling' the show to us, it was all down to the actors. They were perfectly adequate and audible: but to me they seemed underpowered and lacking confidence.

Shylock is many, many things. But reticent? Please.

But.... In the interval I overhear a boy (perhaps thirteen) asking mother: 'Is Shylock as baddie?'

As his mother said: 'That's a very good question.'

And if that one lad wants to come back for more Shakespeare, then I'm happy. There'll be many more shows for him to relish and which won't short-change him as this one has done.

Benedict Nightingale's review in The Times is spot-on.

1 comment:

Webrarian said...

Mr G is to be thanked for this review which is a model of clarity and eruditon.

This Mr G will not be making the pilgrimage to Stratford to see it.

(Why do I keep thinking of 'Aprille with his shoures soote' and pilgrimages at the moment?)