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The Theatreguide.London Review

The Merchant Of Venice
Globe Theatre     Spring 2022

Shylock is probably the only character from this impressive Globe production of The Merchant of Venice that you would want to spend any time with.

You would steer clear of the five well dressed drunken lads who open the show by forcing Launcelot (Aaron Vodovoz), the servant to Shylock, to drink a shot of alcohol each time he uses the word Jew which they loudly echo with the repeated chant of Jew.

In contrast, Adrian Schiller in a strong performance as Shylock is gentle and reflective, implying layers of depth to his character. Dressed in a modern outdoor jacket, he could be any downtrodden working man. It is easy for the audience to identify with him and to be opposed to the racist bullying he receives.

That racism is there in every contact he has with the other characters. It is unreasoned and trivial from people who are depicted as largely self-absorbed, who live in a superficial hedonistic world.

Portia’s (Sophie Melville) marriage is arranged by a game show in which she dances, scantily clad in a sparkling dress, upon a silver pedestal as the well-heeled men ponder which of three boxes will win them this human prize.

There is never any doubt where the show's sympathies lie. Even in the court scene, as Shylock hesitantly prepares to cut the flesh off Antonio (Michael Gould), he clutches at the cloth of a child’s doll that belonged to the daughter Jessica he lost and seems unable to use the knife despite Antonio urging him on.

No wonder I saw a couple of audience members nod when Shylock angrily says in one of a small number of insertions into the text, 'Fuck your laws.'

It is the court scene that ends this performance with the defeated Shylock walking from the theatre like a weary refugee as the rest of the characters scramble in an orgy of exhilaration amidst the wealth of Shylock that is scattered across the stage.

As their noisy excitement quietens, Jessica (Eleanor Wyld), looking horrified, arrives to sing the haunting Kol Nidre, the words of a persecuted people which are believed to date back to the 6th century and the forced conversion of Jews.

It is an unsettling finish to this fine anti-racist production directed by Abigail Graham. There are moments in this performance you will remember long after you leave the theatre.

Keith McKenna

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Review of The Merchant Of Venice - Globe Theatre 2022


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