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The Merchant of Venice

by on 23 October 2018

Venice from Rome: A Pound of Flesh with All the Trimmings

The Merchant of Venice

by William Shakespeare

Bedouin Shakespeare Company at The Duke of York’s Theatre until 22nd October

Review by Denis Valentine

The Bedouin Shakespeare Company fresh from a successful run at the Globe in Rome, has brought its current production of The Merchant of Venice to the Duke of York’s Theatre, marking its West End debut.

MoV Bedouin in Rome

The type and style of the production is set immediately in the opening moments, with upbeat music accompanying a modern dress and setting. Anyone familiar with the company’s previous works and shows under director Chris Pickles will immediately see before a line is even spoken that the recognisable elements of fun and playfulness are all there.

MoV BloomerFrom the cast, special mention must go to Clare Bloomer who offers a dynamic performance as Shylock, gaining sympathy or aversion towards the character at all the right moments and having the ability to switch mid-scene between the two. Her “Am I not the same” monologue is allowed to reverberate hauntingly around the theatre, as it poses very relevant questions to modern day issues. It is quite poignant, in a production that often uses music and other accompaniments in its scenes, that in this moment Bloomer is given a silent stage in which to work and weave a very telling piece

 

Janna Fox and Eleanor Russo play their scenes as Portia and Nerissa brilliantly, offering a steady straightness to proceedings which allow the often more comedic elements around them to work to full effect.

MoV WatsonMichael Watson-Gray is often hilarious, as he plays an array of characters, with special mention going to his Prince of Aragon and a scene with Russo (who also offers a wonderful turn as Old Gobba in perfect Italian) as Launcelot Gobbo. The only unfortunate symptom of Watson-Gray having to multi-role as so many characters is there are certain moments in the show where it seems, through no fault of his own, like the a character showcase arising out of numbers necessity rather than being fluid with the production.

The BSC often implements a lot of different elements in its shows and Director Pickles takes full advantage of his multi-talented cast. There are musical numbers, clowning, commedia-dell-arte, physical comedy and moments of modern day ad-libs to the text, all expertly woven in and performed.

 

All the actors work well off of each other and are given their individual moments to shine. Camilla Simson, Kiki Darlowe, Azaan Symes, George Caporn and Edward Andrews all prove themselves to be very capable Shakespearian players with great commands of the text and the aforementioned wide variety of theatrical elements that BSC productions offer.

The only real stumbling block with the production is that at times scenes can feel dragged out for the sake of adding humour and some restraint with this element would have allowed the more genuine moments to shine through. Although an oft-used cliché ‘less is more’ would be a term to possibly apply here.

Overall the show is an enjoyable piece of Shakespearian theatre with moments that make it a unique production, but with a lot of care and respect given to the play’s classical nature and intention.

The BSC under Artistic Director Edward Andrews continues to expand and is an exciting, up-and-coming Shakespeare company with a growing amount of shows here, in Europe and the UAE.

Denis Valentine
October 2018

Photography courtesy of BSC

From → Drama, Reviews

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