Twelfth Night

Tuesday 23 June – Saturday 4 July 2020


Merchant of Venice

The George
Directed by Jacquie Spencer

The Merchant of Venice is a play about love and hate and prejudice and revenge set in Venice at the end of the 16th Century. Following Henry VIII’s break with the Catholic Church there remained religious upheaval. His daughter Elizabeth was nearing the end of her reign and there was plotting and intrigue in the Royal Court where Shakespeare’s company performed, taking great care not to offend as punishments were harsh. Some scholars believe that the play is comment on the plight of the Catholics in England who were forced to convert to Protestants on pain of death. It is thought that Shakespeare’s own family may have been secret Catholics. 

Shylock was originally played as a dark villain. Officially at that time there were no Jews in England and folk lore had demonised them, so the theatre-going public were likely to see the worst in any Jewish characters. Despite this, Shakespeare gives us a very human Shylock who suffers the prejudice and humiliation of his daily life.   Shylock’s people were stateless, they were shunned and abused by the society they lived in and prevented from becoming citizens or earning a living as they would wish. Whilst money lending was illegal, it was also essential for commerce, and they fulfilled a need in society. Against this background, and the abuse we know that Shylock was subjected to by Antonio and his friends, is it any surprise that he should finally snap when they take his daughter?

The Merchant of Venice is also a love story: Portia and Bassanio, Nerissa and Gratiano, Jessica and Lorenzo, …… and poor Antonio; but even the beautiful Portia is scathing about many foreigners in her reviews of her suitors – in particular the Prince of Morocco.

It is almost impossible to view this play without reflecting on recent history, but the Jews have been persecuted since they were driven out of Israel by the Romans. The Vatican only officially declared that the Jews were not responsible for Jesus’ death in 1965.

We see such scenarios all around us and all over the world today with oppressed minorities, acting out the same sequences of prejudice, oppression and terrible revenge.   We also see the effect of unchecked usury in high mortgage repayments, credit card debt and payday loans, and perhaps the Elizabethans had a point in not allowing the lending of money for interest…

SHYLOCK                             A Jewish Money-Lender                                   Richard Brown

PORTIA                                 An Heiress From Belmont                                Lynne Livingstone

ANTONIO                             A Merchant From Venice                                  Simon Maylor

BASSANIO                            Antonio’s Friend                                                 Reuben Milne

JESSICA                                 Shylock’s Daughter                                           Stephanie Dickenson

NERISSA                                Portia’s Gentlewoman                                    Paula Incledon-Webber

GRATIANO                          Bassanio’s Friend                                               Rob Barton

LORENZO                             Friend Of Bassanio & Jessica’s Love             Andy Wilkes

SALARINO                            Friends Of Antonio                                            Phil Leverett

SALANIO                              Friends Of Antonio                                             James Wetherill

LAUNCELOT                       Shylock/Bassanio’s Servant                             Ray Livermore

TUBAL                                  Jewish Money-Lender                                       Peter Wyborn

GOBBO                                  Launcelot’s Father                                             Derrick Scothern

LEONARDO                          Bassanio’s Servant                                            Louise West


Madam BALTHASAR                                                                     Maggie Redgrave

JOSETTA                                                                                           Charlotte Edwards

ROSETTA                                                                                          Joely Sockett

LORETTA                                                                                         Emma Bone


PRINCE OF MOROCCO                                                                 Richard Sockett

PRINCE OF ARRAGON                                                                  Bob Pugh


DUKE                                                                                             Richard Sockett                                                          

GAOLER                                                                                            Paul Gakell

GATEKEEPER                                                                                  Bob Pugh

JEWISH COMMUNITY:                                                                Derrick Scothern

Joely Sockett

Bob Pugh

LADIES OF VENICE            :                                                         Charlotte Edwards

Emma Bone


TO PRINCE OF MOROCCO                                                         Peter Wyborn

Louise West

TO PRINCE OF ARRAGON                                                         Derrick Scothern

Louise West

Director: Jacqueline Spencer

Assistant Director: John Shippey

Stage Manager: Kevin D Connor

Set Designer: Rob Barton

Production Co-Ordinator: Richard Brown

Technical Co-Ordinator: Nic Cole

Costume Design & Creation: Jo Fradley, Helen Arnett, Gretta Tamlyn

Dressers: Helen Arnett, Janice Cole, Gretta Tamlyn

Musical director (inc. composer): Roy Bellass

Musicians: Roy Bellass, Louise West

Lighting Design: Max Richardson

Sound Design: Ed Welsh

Properties: Cherry & Smiley Mildwater

Continuity: Amy Burt

Continuity Assistant: Elizabeth Elliot

Make-Up: Daisy Barton, Roz Brown, Laura Harling, Lindsay Kennedy and friends

Set Construction and Backstage: Patrick Farrall-Daniel, Elizabeth Elliot, Nic Cole, Richard Morley, Nick Morley, Connor Bryant, Kirsty Macleod, Paul Macleod, Maddie Sturgeon-Kell, Ellie Sutton, Richard Brown, Perry Incledon-Webber

Front of House: Trish James, Annie Welsh, Heather Livermore, Hannah Davies

Box Office: Simon Maylor and Kevin Webb

Publicity: Simon Maylor

Poster Design: Trevor Bass at Ken Girvan Printers ltd

Photography: Antonia Brown

Programme Design: Reuben Milne in conjunction with Trevor Bass at Ken Girvan Printers ltd