The Merchant of Venice is Polly Findlay’s adaptation of the play written by William Shakespeare. The performance took place in Stratford-upon-Avon, but I watched the performance online through Digital Theatre Plus. The play is a complex tale of money, greed, and prejudice; Antonio, an antisemitic, takes out a loan from the Jew Shylock, which he cannot afford to repay.
Written By: Zackarya Faci
The first thing to note is the language used throughout the performance. It is reminiscent of 16th-century English and stays true to the language used in the original play. While it required more attention to fully grasp what the actors were saying, it was still understandable and enjoyable. One thing that veered from the original play is the costume choice. A much more modern dress was used–which I believe made this play more enjoyable and feel like a newly created work. Also, the contrast of how the actors dressed and spoke added a unique and memorable element.
The play was performed on a stage that was open to the audience on three sides. This empowered the actors to be more dynamic in their movements and utilize the stage to its full potential. Since there were many different viewing angles, the actors had to be cautious to make the play interesting from each of them.This also made it more engaging and seem less like just a play, since the audience was not just watching the performance as they would any other (or even how they watch TV for that matter). One actor was even introduced to the stage from the audience–furthering the sense of immersion for the audience.
The actors also did a phenomenal job of immersing the audience through an emotional connection as well. One of the more emotional parts is when actor Makram J. Khoury, who plays the Jewish Shylock, gave a speech defending his ethnicity and faith. He proclaimed, “Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons”. These strong comparisons draw sympathy from the audience and reveal a main theme of the performance–a fight against prejudice.