Drayton Arms Theatre, London – until 19 October 2019
What is it? Poetic Justice Productions in association with Wolf-Sister Productions presents William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice.
What’s it all about? Antonio (Kevin G. Drury) a merchant, takes a loan from Jewish man Shylock (Ashley Gunstock) in order for Bassanio (Dan Burman) to court the fair Portia (Zoë Lambrakis).
Meanwhile, Shylock’s Daughter, Jessica, (Genie Khlemnitski) runs away with the young Lorenzo (Michael Skellern) to become a Christian and his wife. Antonio’s assets are lost at sea and therefore he can’t repay his loan, and without mercy, Shylock demands a pound of his flesh.
How did it make me feel? If anyone is questioning whether Shakespeare is relevant in modern society they should come and watch this production. The key things for me in this play, which echoes so much of society today, is the ‘lack of tolerance’ we have for people that are “different” to us.
What is presented is an extremely well put together ensemble who multi-role so well you forget how many characters they are playing. Special mentions have to be given to Lambrakis and Drury on their multi-role work, and Gunstock as Shylock, who is subtle yet incredibly convincing, proving that there is no need to use caricatures when performing in particular roles of race or religion, and reminds us that we are all human after all.
It is also important to mention how refreshing it is see the story of Jessica (played delicately by Khmelnitski) not completely cut for once, as Jessica (in my opinion) has one of the most tragic and compelling storylines in all of Shakespeare’s writing.
The costumes and set, in particular, by Sorcha Corcoran are perfect. The set gives you a Brechtian feel, being able to see the actors change (at times very quickly) into their other characters and once on stage, are very present in their new roles. Director Alex Pearson clearly loves Shakespeare, as the story weaves together so well, and makes clear what is going on from start to finish.
However there is a moment in which The Prince of Arragon brings out a face mask of the current UK Prime Minister, which for me, felt a little much. With so much going on in the current political spectrum at present, it does feel a little forced and unnecessary. However this is only one small moment during the play and it doesn’t affect the overall enjoyment of performance.
Where Is It Playing? At the Drayton Arms Theatre from October 1st -19th. 7:30pm and 3pm Saturday Matinees. Anything Else? This very well presented version of The Merchant of Venice is excellently executed, proving to modern audiences that Shakespeare doesn’t have to be complicated in order to understand it – if you understand the circumstances and have an open mind, Shakespeare is just as fresh, modern and relevant as it was 400 years ago. Claire-Monique x The Merchant Of Venice is playing at The Drayton Arms Theatre until the 19th October 2019. If you like our reviews and want to support this blog feel free to buy any of us a virtual coffee here!