English Theatre Week #4: The MERCHANT OF VENICE at the Shakespeare´s Globe London and in Venice

ENGLISH THEATRE WEEK                                            Klingers Kulturpavillon

FRIDAY 10/21/2016

Today we talk about one of Shakespeare´s plays. THE MERCHANT OF VENICE is set in Venice, but not all the time. Belmont is also an important place in this play. The question: „What news on the Rialto?“ is remarkable. The Rialto Bridge, one of the world´s most known bridges, is „to blame“. And, what is it all about? So, THE MERCHANT OF VENICE is a play about friendship, moneylending, love, and of course religion. And, of course about some ships returning to Venice as soon as possible (you know!) The first staging of the play took place in the Palace of Whitehall on February 10th, 1605 before the eyes of King Jacob I.

The story of this „comedy“ by William himself is based on the novel Il Pecorone (the Moneylender) by Giovanni Fiorentino and, never to forget, the famous Gesta Romanorum (Doings of Romans).

The language used is Early Modern English. That means, it could be difficult even for native Speakers, to understand every single word of the play. Well, one company and cast who cares about it and brings this story to life in a modern stage is Shakespeare´s Globe this year. „The Merchant“ is also on a national and international tour (including VENICE).

THE MERCHANT OF VENICE at Shakespeare´s Globe is a highly anticipated play, and it is part of Wonder Season 2016.

At first, Dominic Mafham in the role of the rich merchant Antonio, who wants to help a friend, is impressive. His acting is intense, like the movement of his eyes and face, sometimes, too. This acting, does it come from Bristol Old Vic Theatre School? Even when Shylock, the Jew, wants to rip out Antonio´s pound of flesh, Antonio is consistant in his conviction. Antonio, of course, is (mostly) a man of honour and here to help his friend, (actor Dan Fredenburgh – also a good sidekick!) who is badly and madly in love with Portia (Rachel Pickup), a wealthy heiress. Now Rachel Pickup (whose first major role was in a BBC TV series called No bananas) as Portia is just enchanting, such a fairylike woman with such a strong voice, with such a powerful attitude. She´s perfect at speaking Shakespeare´s language. And she makes things much more royal when she is supposed to find her life partner. Not less charming: Dorothea Myer-Bennett as her maid Nerissa, who sometimes wants to seduce her to find a special man (French) with the scent of perfume. As a main character besides the merchant and the duke of Venice, Shylock, a jewish moneylender, presented by Jonathan Pryce, is trying to conquer his fears. His performance reveals strong power as well as heartbreaking religious moments (INCLUDING real ! tears). His daughter, Jessica, (played by his real-life daughter Phoebe Pryce), is also a powerful and convincing character. Hilarious and full of emotion: Launcelot Gobbo (Stefan Adegbola), who takes advantage of the audience and begs a man and a woman to come on stage and represent „The fiend“ and „The conscience“. This scene gets funny the moment all audience members start to shout: „Budge!“ OR „Budge not!“ Adegbola knows how to get them on his side: He keeps moving the mouth of the young man Standing near him, a bit frightened of what he will have to do, in order to let his „fiend“ speak through this man. The cast also includes the Prince of Morocco (also hilarious: Giles Terera) and the Duke of Venice (Ignatius Anthony); and actor John Hastings (the powerful and energetic Ensemble).

The production is directed by Jonathan Munby and composed by Jules Maxwell. The cast headed to the REAL Venice these days to take the final bow of the production.

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Phoebe Pryce (Jessica) (c) shakespearesglobe
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Giles Terera (Prince of Morocco) (c)shakespearesglobe
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Jonathan Pryce, Dominic Mafham (Shylock, Antonio) (c) shakespearesglobe
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Poster Merchant of Venice (c) shakespearesglobe
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Stefan Adegbola (Launcelot Gobbo) (c) shakespearesglobe
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Rachel Pickup, Dorothea Myer-Bennett (Portia, Nerissa) (c) shakespearesglobe