Merchant of Venice Review

In her “wonderful and uncompromising” staging of Merchants of VeniceAbigail Graham never shies away from what this play is really about, says Oliver Ainley What’s on the stage. Namely: “a group of powerful and abusive wicked men mercilessly persecuted a Jewish man.”

Set in contemporary London, the production opens with Bassiano and the other City boys forcing Launcelot, Shylock’s former servant, to knock him down every time he says the word “Jew”. Then, in the final scene, as the Christians celebrate the imperial victory, their dialogue fades and is drowned out by a mournful Hebrew lament. By the way, the happy ending, with the rings restored to their rightful owners, is ripped apart and our attention focused on Jessica and Shylock, her destroyed father. . “It’s utterly tragic, but at the same time mesmerizing.”

Shylock is played by Adrian Schiller with “heartbreaking” dignity, says Kate Wyver in Guardians. Donald Hutera says in Time; he is a “sober, considered, and heavily abused character” who is used to the constant cruelty he faces, and who can control his emotions. Although Schiller “never begged for it, our sympathy lies firmly” with the moneylender. And while some purists might object to the way Graham made explicit the “Shylock show,” the truth is: “it works.”

I disagree, Marianka Swain said in Daily telegram. Graham’s approach is “conceptually interesting,” but “when it comes to bringing such pain to people” Shylock, she “makes other people freak out” and thus dull. Antonio is seen as “a white thug, a rule of law” and even Portia (Sophie Melville) is “openly racist”, even though we “have no doubt that she is a cruel victim of patriarchy.”

Andrzej Lukowski says in Time out. It “pays off with that wonderful final scene, a breathless wave of anti-Semitic horror. But it’s been a bumpy ride to get there.”

Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, Shakespeare’s Globe. Until April 9 Merchant of Venice Review

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