Review: The Merchant of Venice, University Drama Studio

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SuTCo return to form with an excellent rendition of the Bard’s dramatic play. It’s hard to interpret the story as anything other than uncomfortably anti-semitic however. After relentless Jew bashing from the Christian majority, you could forgive Shylock for wanting a mere pound of flesh in recompense.

Dan Turner chooses a sympathetic approach to the character of Shylock. His signature speech, showing the ridiculousness of religious intolerance is delivered perfectly.

“If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh?”

His adversary Antonio is similarly wise in words if not action. “The world’s a stage where every man must play a part.” Alex Monks plays Antonio with an appropriate helping of heavy heartedness and his close male friendship with Richard Agar’s Bassanio is touchingly handled.

Anna Dobrucki almost upstages herself. She carries the rich heiress, Portia, with a soft spot for Bassanio off well enough and then has a fine turn as a disguised male lawyer in a terrific courtroom showdown. Erin O’Neill is a savvy partner of Dobrucki in seduction and legal duplicity as Nerissa, her maid.

A comical cameo from Chad Bentley as Lancelet illustrates in very physical style how we all wrestle with our ego and our conscience on a daily basis.

Dominic Corfield directs Shakespeare’s play and draws good performances from all the cast. Sarah Rubini updates the actors’ costumes for a contemporary feel. Jonathan Higgins employs sound effectively, although the occasional background music may distract some from the dialogue.