Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Merchant of Venice


Jack Studio Theatre, Brockley Road.

Alexander Shenton as Bassanio and Rosemary Lippard as Portia

Stephen McNeice as Shylock.

A dimly lit stage made up entirely of an oversize and sturdy boardroom table which dominates the room is the setting for Lazarus Theatre company’s production of Merchant of Venice.
The show, now on at the Jack Studio Theatre above the Brockley Jack pub, is a trimmed down affair. At a mere 100 minutes a good chunk of Shakespeare’s text has been given the chop.
But the essence of the play is very much still there with all the action taking place in, around or on top of the enormous table.
When Bassanio decides to woo Portia he borrows money from his wealthy friend Antonio. Antonio believing his ships will bring him home a fortune readily agrees to lend Bassanio the money.
But before his fortune is realised and to pay Bassanio, Antonio takes out a loan with Shylock, a Jewish moneylender and a man who Antonio has insulted in the past because of his religion.
So sure is Antonio that his ships will come in that he readily agrees to Shylock’s bond which is a pound of flesh if Antonio fails to repay the loan.
However, although Bassanio successfully woos Portia, Antonio’s fleet is lost at sea, and with it his fortune, and Shylock demands his bond be paid in full. It is up to Portia, disguised as a lawyer to save the day.
The play itself is now regarded as a difficult one to put on given its apparent anti semitism. But this production is successful thanks to director Ricky Dukes, his top notch cast and their excellent interpretation of the text.
There are some elements that are curious – for example the sometimes slo-mo movements. But generally it is a lively and spirited show which brings Shakespeare's humour to the fore but which does not shy away from some of the darker themes.
And there are some stand out performances most notably Alexander Shenton as Bassanio, Rosemary Lippard as Portia and Stephen McNeice as Shylock.

The Merchant of Venice is on at The Jack Studio Theatre, Brockley Road until December 7.
Tickets £13. Call the box office on 0844 8700 887

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