The Merchant of Venice
September 28, 2018
The Buckingham’s Company's comedic take on Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice is an exuberant exercise in engaging theatre.
Set in a three-story local pop-up equivalent to the second Globe Theatre built by Shakespeare’s company in 1613-14 under the open sky, the forum is explored to immerse the audience to the fullest, making it come close to what an original incarnation must have looked like when it comes to actors interacting with the audience with quick witted banter.
Having seem a myriad of interpretations of The Merchant of Venice, this was certainly one of the more entertaining ones and the bits that were improvised and left up to chance as the audience’s repartees are seamlessly incorporated into mono- and dialogues, were highlights of the evening that often left a smile on the faces both on- and offstage.
The fact that what is commonly perceived to be a play with anti-Semitic undertones, was reinterpreted so that the villain, i.e. Shylock found a representation through Peter Daubé’s nuanced portrayal in a manner that gave an inkling of an idea what has formed his character, that being the mistreatment by devout Christians.
Another connotation the play was infused with to make it relevant to modern times were allusions to current day Australia and the climate of prejudices, justice system and detention.
Despite these modern adjustments, the play was well-balanced and in some aspects very faithful to an original Shakespeare production, e.g. having an all-male cast (with one exception, i.e. the smart Portia, which given the nature of the role could have been a deliberate choice to make a statement) that was a pleasure to watch – specifically the female leads who were portrayed by male actors in all shapes and sizes adding to the resolutely comedic atmosphere but also something that can be further interpreted as a take on modern day gender identity issues.
The Merchant of Venice is not unlike any of Shakespeare’s plays a timeless classic, yet infused with the fresh blood of this New Zealand based production company and against the backdrop of a Globe Theater, it is given a new dimension and thereby builds a bridge between the 16th and the 21st centuries.
Photo courtesy of Pop Up Globe Sydney
A veritable delight.