What’s it all about?
This is Shakespeare’s classic story about a merchant and a rather meaty loan demanded as payment by a Jewish moneylender.
What begins as a comic tale, courtesy of the scenes in which three potential suitors vie for the hand of a beautiful heiress, takes a tragic turn as Shylock is brought down in a horrifying display of anti-semitism.
Funnily enough it’s also about justice and mercy, the theme of the Globe’s 2015 summer season.
Who’s in it?
Jonathan Pryce, in his first appearance at Shakespeare’s Globe, plays Shylock, horrid and threatening as he demands his pound of flesh but taking on a pitiable vulnerability as he is eventually stripped of all his menace, power and, most poignantly, religion.
Where the plight of Pryce’s Shylock gives the production its seriousness, there is much comedy to make up for it thanks to some of the other outstanding performances. Stefan Adegbola is hilarious as Bassanio’s cheeky and gregarious servant and Christopher Logan brings his fair share of amusement as Portia’s second suitor, the Prince of Arragon.
What should I look out for?
Yourself. Especially if you’re watching the show from the pit. Find yourself in the wrong/right place at the wrong/right time (delete as applicable) and you could find yourself on stage acting out a scene with Adegbola’s Launcelot Gobbo.
Other things to look out for include the closest thing to Shakespearean Deal Or No Deal you’ll ever see, Portia’s stunning gowns from designer Mike Britton and a resonating and unconventional final scene.
In a nutshell?
This Pryce can’t be beaten. As theatre’s most notorious moneylender, Jonathan Pryce makes an exceptional Globe debut, stealing the limelight in a production that offers a winning combination of comedy and tragedy.
What’s being said on Twitter?
@aguelff Blown away by #MerchantofVenice at @The_Globe last night. We see *every* character’s ugly side and it’s so much the better for it.
@Xanthevw: Merchant of Venice at @The_Globe – beautifully handled, leaving the audience feeling awkward and sorry between the laughs.
Will I like it?
This production skips along at such a pace it certainly won’t have you, to borrow one of the season’s themes, begging for mercy. Against the stunning backdrop of one of the capital’s most iconic theatres, Jonathan Munby’s perfectly pitched The Merchant Of Venice truly is a must-see this summer.
The Merchant Of Venice is playing at Shakespeare’s Globe until 7 June. You can book tickets through the venue’s website.