THE MERCHANT OF VENICE
by William Shakespeare.
Almeida Theatre Almeida Street Islington N1 1TA To 14 February 2015.
7.30pm (5pm on Jan 1), mats Wed, Sat 2.30pm; Wed mats 2.30pm on Dec 17 Dec,
Jan 7, 14, 21 & 28 Jan & 4 Feb.
Audio-described 16 Jan 16 (+ Touch Tour 6pm), 24 Jan 2.30pm (+Touch Tour12.45pm).
Captioned 13 Jan 13 7.30pm, 21 Jan 31. 2.30pm
Runs: 3hr One interval.
TICKETS 020 7359 4404 (24 hours)
Review Carole Woddis of 16 December 2014:
Internally consistent, thoughtful, not always easy to live with.
Whether you like them or not, Rupert Goold productions are never dull. By now a Goold production is stamped with his own distinctive tropes of originality, invention and a positive sense of pleasure in over-turning sacred cows.
Thus it is with his re-staged Merchant of Venice, originally seen in Stratford three years ago when Shylock was played by Patrick Stewart, his place taken this time by Ian McDiarmid, the Almeida’s former AD with Jonathan Kent.
McDiarmid is a performer pickled in a certain iconoclastic mannerism, a style which fits well with Goold’s extravaganza approach to one of Shakespeare’s most controversial, challenging plays. An unusually broadminded introduction by the Jewish Chronicle’s John Nathan in the Merchant programme doesn’t recoil from the play’s troubling anti-semitic portrayal but argues how important it is not to censor its staging.
Having said that, I find myself deeply at odds with Goold’s general approach. Much is made in the programme of the appropriateness of choosing Las Vegas as the production’s locus, a modern parallel to Shakespeare’s early 17th century Venice with both in the business of risk and money-making adventurism. Broad doesn’t come near it in terms of the performing style adopted.
What you can say is the conceit is consistent, played to the hilt from the bump and grind opening to Jamie Beamish’s clownish lookalike Elvis Lancelet Gobbo’s regular launch into Elvis hits. To add to the gaiety, Portia and Nerissa are portrayed as Barbie-doll type presenters in a reality show called Destiny.
Enjoyable enough if you like your humour garish and Goold’s reading often feels fresh whilst also disquieting. He’s more successful for my money, apart from making the rampant anti-semitism so explicit, in underling the play’s other themes about stereotyping and the deceptiveness of appearance.
In Vegas-land, all is fake. Shylock’s sleek grey haircut is revealed as dramatically false as Portia’s goldilocks. A strange ambiguity too settles over the second half with a finale of loneliness, each character locked in their own worlds, Bassanio’s homo-erotic tie to Antonio hinted at and Portia a figure of painful disenchantment, wig whirling, tottering, broken.
A problematic production for a problematic, broken-backed play.
The Merchant of Venice
By William Shakespeare
Presented by arrangement with the Royal Shakespeare Company
Lancelet Gobbo: Jamie Beamish.
Stephanie: Rebecca Brewer.
Portia: Susannah Fielding.
Antonio: Scott Handy.
Conscience: Merry Holden.
Shylock: Ian McDiarmid.
Jessica: Caroline Martin.
Prince of Morocco/Jailer: Vinta Morgan.
Prince of Aragon/Duke of Venice: Vincenzo Nicoli.
Nerissa: Emily Plumtree.
Lorenzo: Finlay Robertson.
Salerio: Raphael Sowole.
Solanio: Tim Steed.
Tubal/Jailer: Jonathan Tafler.
Gratiano: Anthony Welsh.
Bassanio: Tom Weston-Jones.
Musicians: Luke Allwood, Cris Castello, Sam Edgington, Andy Greenwood, Carol Jarvis, Charlie Wilkinson, Simon Willescroft.
Director: Rupert Goold.
Designer: Tom Scutt.
Lighting: Rick Fisher.
Sound: Gregory Clarke.
Music: Adam Cork.
Music Associate/Orchestrations: Alex Baranowski.
Choreographer: Scott Ambler.
Video: Nina Dunn, Jack Henry James.
Dialect Coach: Rick Lipton.
Fight director: Rachel Bown-Williams of RC-Annie Ltd.
Associate director: Lisa Blair.
Associate designer: Holly Pigott.
Associate choreographer: Shelby Williams.
Video associate: Louise Rhoades-Brown.
This production of The Merchant of Venice was inspired by an original idea from John Logan and Patrick Stewart. Thanks to the original Stratford cast as well.
First performance of this production at the Almeida Theatre London 5 December 2014.