Tissues. Take tissues to THE MERCHANT OF VENICE performed by Buckingham’s Company at the Pop Up Globe. Shylock will reach down the centuries to prickle the eyes. Seeing the racism rampant and hoping that 400 years has made change, secretly knowing there is still much to do, will barb and water requiring a discreet dab of the visage. And keep said tissue handy because, the biggest surprize of all, Portia will fill your nose with snot and eye with tears of joy and laughter. This production is a splendid manifestation of social consciousness embedded in bespoke theatrical entertainment of the highest, most accessible calibre.
This MERCHANT OF VENICE ranges about the wide, authentic stage with slapstick and pathos, characters broad and subtle and that most onomatopoeic Chaucerian four letter word in direct contrast with the sublime poetry. There’s so much to enjoy for any audience whether new to the Bard or steeped in the canon. Continue reading THE MERCHANT OF VENICE: BIG NEWS ON THE RIALTO→
Aussie actors continue to make a big impact when they leave our shores. Take Luke Edward Smith, the 30-year-old with the boyish good looks, who is cutting a fine figure on the New York stage with a succession of Shakespeare roles and a number of films in the pipeline.
Roles in Romeo and Juliet and The Merchant of Venice are coming up; and the feature film To Tokyo is set for release later this year.
Born in Sydney into a family of aircraft engineers, aviators and mechanics – Luke (improbably!) caught the stage ‘bug’ at high school after auditioning for its production of The KIng and and continued on to tertiary drama school, completing a Bachelor of Creative Arts through the Wesley Institute (now Excelsia) and eventually to New York’s famous Lee Strasberg Institute.
The first recorded performance of The Merchant of Venice was 10th February 1605. The themes of racial and religious hatred, money, marriage and mercy all still reverberate as soundly today as they did in 1605.
The context has undoubtedly changed; the 17th century fission between Christianity and Judaism resonates far less today, but the cold war between two powerful men of money is as fresh and smelly as it has ever been.
STOOGED THEATRE has presented a production that breathes new life into this classic text. With a few theatrical tweaks and contemporary references, THE MERCHANT OF VENICE becomes a media savvy play about money and politics and taking down your political opponents using the law as your weapon. Random pen drops on a newspaper will supply any number of current examples to support that theme.
According to the “Athens” Merchant of Venice website, “Shakespeare and Anti-Semitism: The Question of Shylock,” there are two views on the plays alleged anti-Semitism. First, the text presented strong evidence of Shakespeare’s purpose to portray Shylock as an “inhuman” villain “whose diabolical cunning” was “bent on gratifying a satanic lust for Christian flesh” (Athens 1).
Conversely, many people also feel that the play exposes shortcomings equally in Christians as well as Jews. It could however be surmised that Elizabethan audiences were anti- Semitic. Remember, it was just 300 years earlier, in 1290, when Jewish people were expelled from England
Actor Mark Lee, playing Shylock in the current Sydney Shakespeare Company’s Production asserted that traditionally children were employed to throw fruit at the character and indeed this show doesn’t pull punches. (“Shall we not REVENGE” indeed!) When the moment arrived, a black hood and straight razor reminiscent of some terrorist ritual on a victim strapped to a chair, needed only a camera to be a scene from countless movies on the subject.
On to this production. Considering my high expectations, (THE MERCHANT OF VENICE was my first introduction to Shakespeare in school and like many other dreamers, Shylock the character of choice to play), and the arduous task of rehearsing around the cast’s working lives, I was very pleasantly surprised at a very polished and entertaining production.
Special plaudits to Mark Lee for a very finely balanced and tuned Shylock heading an ensemble of talented and creative artists. Noteworthy are Steven Hopley as Lancelot (also happened to direct the production. Don’t you hate inordinately talented people?!), Andrew Thomson as Salerio and the Duke, and Lizzie Schebesta as Portia.
Do yourselves a favour and find your way to this one.
THE MERCHANT OF VENICE is playing at the Tap Gallery, 278 Palmer Street, Darlinghurst until Saturday August 24, 2013.
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