THE MERCHANT OF VENICE
by William Shakespeare.
Shakespeare’s Globe 21 New Globe Walk SE1 9DT In rep to 7 June 2015.
Runs 2hr 45min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7401 9919.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 28 May.
A great Globe production.
It looks as if the Globe Playhouse’s pillars have been charred, adding to the blackness of the opening carnival in Venice. And Jonathan Munby’s production points-up the dark elements within a comedy where Shakespeare goes to the brink of tragedy as the title character’s about to be ripped apart to fulfil a contract when he can’t pay-up in money what he’s borrowed for a friend.
The elegance and fame of Portia’s speech about mercy, which establishes this play as a fit opener to the Globe’s 2015 ‘Justice and Mercy’ season, doesn’t veil the seriousness. Antonio’s arms are spread wide for the pound of flesh to be taken, as if being crucified, emphasising the Christian/Jew contrast. And Rachel Pickup’s vivid Portia, disguised as a lawyer, either thinks of the way out only at the last moment, or is anxious how effective her last-minute argument will be.
Jonathan Pryce’s Shylock is spat at and insulted. When his red cap is thrown to the floor after the trial, court officers won’t even let him pick it up. The humiliation of his punishment is made visible at the end. In place of the Globe’s usual dancing conclusion there’s a procession behind a Christian cross where he’s forcibly baptised, struggling in his defeat at each compulsory “Credo” by which he assents to the articles of Christian faith. Even the daughter who’s left him for a Christian husband reverts to her culture and language in her accompanying lament.
With a major actor’s skill Pryce takes speeches most performers would underline in importance and makes their point in near-conversational style. His famous equivalence of Jew with Gentile becomes more forceful as part of his thought processes instead of being a deliberate statement of principle.
There’s a conversational realism throughout, while the casket scenes at Belmont show Portia both as prized possession, standing formally on display as each suitor chooses, and as someone with individual desires. The final act’s romantic moonlight scene soon dissolves into quarrels and bawdy, with Bassanio having to deter Antonio’s over-fond affection. In such touches Munby and his cast create a richly shaded production.
Launcelot Gobbo: Stefan Adegbola.
Duke of Venice/Tubal: Michael Bertenshaw.
Balthasar/Chus: Philip Cox.
Prince of Morocco: Scott Karim.
Lorenzo: Ben Lamb.
Bassanio: Daniel Lapaine.
Prince of Arragon: Christopher Logan.
Antonio: Dominic Mafham.
Salarino: Brian Martin.
Nerissa: Dorothea Myer-Bennett.
Solanio: Regé-Jean Page.
Portia: Rachel Pickup.
Shyloc: Jonathan Pryce.
Jessica: Phoebe Pryce.
Gratiano: David Stutzaker.
Ensemble: Sydney Aldridge, Jack Joseph, Jimmy Roye-Dunne.
Director: Jonathan Munby.
Designer: Mike Britton.
Composer: Jules Maxwell.
Musical Director/Singer: Jeremy Avis.
Choreographer: Lucy Hind.
Globe associate – Text: Giles Block.
Globe associate – Movement: Glynn Macdonald.
Voice/Dialect: Martin McKellan.
Fight director: Kate Waters.
Assistant director: Kevin Bennett.