The Merchant of Venice – 2002

Director Gary Mackay

‘The villany you teach me I will execute…’

One of Shakespeare’s most popular plays, The Merchant of Venice was written some time between 1594 and 1596. It has always been a popular play, and is said to have been performed more often than any other of Shakespeare’s plays except Hamlet.

Bassiano, a young Venetian, seeks to borrow money from his friend Antonio, a successful merchant, so that he can impress and woo a wealthy heiress Portia. Antonio arranges a short term loan from the Jewish moneylender Shylock. Despite Shylock’s hatred of the Christian Antonio, he agrees to loan the money on condition that failure to repay the debt will mean that Shylock will extract a pound of Antonio’s flesh in return. Antonio agrees and the story unfolds.

‘Comedy is a special kind of play in which the audience would expect to find a certain kind of story, with certain conventions. Although comic means funny, tending to laughter, comedic means obeying the conventions of comedy as a form or genre. The rule of comedy is that however serious the confusion, all ends well. The Italian poet Dante (1265-1326) wrote a Commedia, a journey through hell to purgatory and up to heaven, which ends well, but does not make its reader laugh.’ (Michael and Mary Alexander, 1998).

The Merchant of Venice and Othello are the two Shakespearean plays which have sparked the most controversy, and The Merchant of Venice is the most controversial and (surprisingly) beloved play in Israel. It appears that although the play is difficult and not seemingly a comedy at all, Shakespeare may have been simply using the comedic form to make people look more objectively at the appalling injustices we inflict on one another because of our differences. So maybe this is the ‘comedy’ of it all – Shakespeare sees people, Jew or Christian, simply as people. If encouraging his audiences to see that we all share a common humanity might well prove difficult, then using the theme of money (to which everyone would relate) could be the best way to reach them. The Merchant of Venice is undoubtedly a challenging play, but ultimately for most of the characters the play does have a happy ending in keeping with the genre.

Directing The Merchant of Venice has been an enjoyable challenge as it has given me my first opportunity to direct a Shakespeare play. William Shakespeare was a great storyteller, and my aim with this production is to ensure that this story is told, not just in the terms of the prejudices of the world in which we live, but to present injustice as it continues to exist.

 

Cast

ANTONIO, the Merchant of Venice Andrew Kendon

Gentlemen of Venice

SALERIO Mark Hebert

SOLANIO Henry Maynard

SALARINO Ken Luxon

LORENZO, in love with Jessica Adam Campbell

BASSANIO, suitor to Portia David Philpot

GRATIANO, friend to Bassanio Stuart Nunn

PORTIA, the Lady of Belmont Elizabeth Graham

NERISSA, her companion Polly Bissett

BALTHAZARA, servant to Portia Susan Paynter

SHYLOCK Phil Cox

TUBAL, friend to Shylock Aidan Hervey

JESSICA, Shylock’s daughter Tara Prior

LAUNCELOT GOBBO, servant to Shylock/Bassanio Guy Marshall

Suitors to Portia

THE PRINCE OF MOROCCO Ken Bryden

THE PRINCE OF ARRAGON Mark Palmer

DUKE OF VENICE Hugh Prior

SERVANTS TO PORTIA Kirsty Doyle, Helen Gray

JAILER Ben Barratt

SOLDIER Philip Pope

 

Production Team

Director Gary Mackay

Stage Manager Kevin Connor

Set Designer Jeremy Bays

Sound team Steve Goodwin, Amanda Leaden, Gaenor Pring, Emma Heggie, Maggie Redgrave, Sarah Crisp

Wardrobe Mistress Jo Fradley

Costume team Mo Pearce, Michelle Askew, Terry Dick

Poster design Simon Webb

Stage Construction Kirton Construction

Set Construction & Backstage Kevin Connor, Jeremy Bays, Suzanne Connor, Elizabeth Connor, Bob Pugh, Jenny Bryson, Emma Cole, Eric Feldkamp, Shaun Pond

Properties Kate Tweedley, Lesley Harling

Lighting Team Mel Pugsley, Roger Blackmore, David Cousins, Kieran Reed, The Penguin Club

Makeup Team Diana Mackay, Deborah Kendon, Lesley Williams, Jan Sheppeard, Mary Fishwick, Maggie Lavin, Hilary Lavin, Graeme Hammond

Prompt Sarah Tarrant

Publicity & Marketing Dee Wormald

Front of House & Sales Michael Cook, Trish James & team

Box Office Cheryl Cook & team

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