12th to 22nd November 2008 (10 performances)
Charles Hutchinson in the The Press wrote:
The Merchant Of Venice has left the sinister shadows and dark backwaters of 16th century Venice for the Edwardian era.
York Shakespeare Project director Cecily Boys gives us the garden-party suits and the big hats (boaters, straw hats, peaked caps et al) of the Belle Epoque, but she also invites “more sober assessments that recognise the immense chasm between the wealthy and the poor”.
Shakespeare’s most troublesome play, she reasons, revolves around money and prejudice (as well as justice and mercy, others would add), and those factors prevailed in Edwardian times. The unspoken inference is that they still pervade today in credit-crunched Britain.
Once that Edwardian milieu has been established, with pretty music on the balcony by the Belmont Piano Trio and singer Anna Edgington, followed by a bustling opening street scene, Boys tells the tale clearly, without undue adornment.
Costumes play a significant part in defining character, against the plain backdrop of the black box theatre at Trinity Hall, Monkgate, and the focus is on the characterisation, character interaction and storytelling. In a community company, such as YSP, where budgets are tight, this is unquestionably the pragmatic decision.
It means that young talents such as Grace Bird’s Portia and Robbie Swale, as her suitor Bassanio, can blossom in one of Shakespeare’s most difficult works.
Bird’s Portia has a gilded playfulness as she conducts the lottery – a game of box-opening rather more challenging than Deal Or No Deal? – to win her hand, before the severity of her belittling of Shylock in the court-case centrepiece.
Ged Murray’s Shylock, the Jewish money lender demanding his pound of flesh, is more northern grafter than stereotypical Jew, remorseless and restless in his righteous protest, his wit dried up by overwhelming prejudice.
Brian Sharp’s austere merchant, Antonio, stands out for sustained intensity; Paul Toy’s cameo as a vain suitor, the Prince of Arragon, rivals Matthew Pattison’s sweet-dispensing clown, Launcelot Gobbo, for comic impact.
After the wedding to end what Boys calls “a comedy that goes wrong”, her sobering production concludes with the most beautiful of mournful songs by Shylock’s daughter, Jessica, sung from the heart by Katy Sharp. Time for reflection indeed.
|Antonio, a merchant of Venice||Brian Sharp|
|Bassanio, his friend and suitor to Portia||Robbie Swale|
|Solanio, their friend||David Hartshorne|
|Salerio, their friend||Jon Hughes|
|Graziano, their friend||David Kendra|
|Lorenzo, in love with Jessica||Izaak Cainer|
|Leonardo, servant to Bassanio||Neil Standish|
|Servant to Antonio||Carys Hartshorne|
|Portia, an heiress, of Belmont||Grace Bird|
|Nerissa, her waiting-woman||Alexandra Darlington|
|Stephano, servant to Portia||Alan Flower|
|Serving Woman||Elaine Innes|
|Casket Bearers||Richard Easterbrook,|
|Mike Foster / Alistair Carr|
|Shylock, a Jew||Ged Murray|
|Jessica, his daughter||Katy Sharp|
|Tubal, a Jew, Shylock’s friend||Jeremy Muldowney|
|Launcelot Gobbo, a clown, servant to Shylock||Matthew Pattison|
|Old Gobbo, his father||Richard Easterbrook|
|Prince of Morocco, suitor to Portia||Pulak Sahay|
|Morrocco’s Train||Vicki Hill, Anna Edgington|
|Prince of Arragon, suitor to Portia||Paul Toy|
|Arragon’s Train||Alan Flower, Glyn Morrow / Jamie Searle|
|Duke of Venice||Roger Took|
|Clerk of Court||Glyn Morrow / Jamie Searle|
|Gaoler||Mike Foster / Alistair Carr|
|Italian Ladies||Vicki Hill, Anna Edgington|
|Musical Director||Jon Hughes|
|The Belmont Piano Trio:||Virginia Rousiamani (Piano)|
|Hannah Gibbs (’Cello)|
|Anna Goldbeck-Wood (Violin)|
|With Anna Edgington (Voice)|
|Lighting||Fergus McGlynn, Benedict Rowe, Joe Mills|
|Stage Manager||Jeremy Muldowney|
|Assistant Stage Management||Adam Baldwin, Rosalind Campbell, Paul Shephard|
|Costumes||Vicki Hill, Jane Collis, Zoe Groves, Harriet Boys|
|Make Up||Naomi Benjamin|
|Images||Cecily Boys, Adam Baldwin, Brian Sharp|
|Matthew Pattison, Rosalind Campbell|
|Front of House||Raymond Baggaley, Anna Sharp,|
|and many friends of the Project|