The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2448  Thursday, 25 October 2001

From:           Larry Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 25 Oct 2001 00:44:45 -0400
Subject: 12.2433 Trevor Nunn's "The Merchant of Venice" on PBS
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2433 Trevor Nunn's "The Merchant of Venice" on PBS

Charles Weinstein's observation that

>  It's significant (and
> depressing) that the National's approach to this play has not changed in
> thirty years

may be more accurate than even he wots of.  About four years ago I saw a
NT production at the Barbican, also done in modern dress (1990s,
complete with computer terminals and cell phones), and with the now
traditional oversentimentalized Shylock supported by a group of
thoroughly uninteresting minor characters.

The most enjoyable M/V I can recall seeing was done last summer, under
canvass, in period costumes, by something called the Hudson Valley
Shakespeare Festival, in Garrison NY.  The director and cast hit upon a
novel and probably perverse approach.  They performed the play as if it
were, mirabile dictu, a comedy.  And they found a great many laughs in
it, most especially -- my hand upon the Folio for this -- in Gratiano's
part.  Shylock was played straight, that is neither a complete victim
nor a thoroughgoing victimizer.  And, most importantly, he was not the
central character of the play, only of that one of the intertwined plots
in which he figures prominently.  The central character was Portia, and
a very lively Portia she was, with much of the wit of Beatrice and the
wisdom of Rosalind.  Not only did I frequently catch myself laughing out
loud, but (treason though it might be) I found the various plots and
characters who were not Shylock so engaging in themselves that I
actually looked forward to scenes in which Shylock was not on stage.

The same company did a fresh R&J later in the season.  The actor who
played Mercutio (I regret not being able to find the program) was
Gratiano in M/V.  I predict we will have reason to know his name soon.

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