THE MERCHANT OF VENICE
WRITTEN BY WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
DIRECTED BY STEPHEN LEE
Shirley Van Sanden, and
Subiaco Arts Centre
6 to 11 September 2011
“Two white benches and a white box set the scene for Class Act Theatre’s Merchant of Venice. As the audience enter, the actors move around the open space warming up before taking the seats ranged around it. They move easily in and out of character through the addition of hat or sunglasses or simple props.
This is a clean, minimalist interpretation reading of Shakepeare’s play of mercantile rivalries and Christian and Jewish sectarianism. The play follows the full complications of young lovers and the unwise bond taken by Antonio (Stephen Lee). The production in neutral modern dress, added wry comic touches with iPhones and Shylock calculating interest on an iPad.
David Meadows in the pivotal role of Shylock gave a detailed yet thoughtful performance that effortlessly capturing shades of bitterness and resentment. The resolution between Antonio and Shylock at the conclusion of the play, contrasted with the WAAPA Second Year Acting production early this year where a more bitter and despairing interpretation was given.
Cassandra Vagliviello’s Portia was feisty and well matched to Josh Walker’s Bassanio.
Stephen Lee’s direction is uncluttered but thorough with a deliberate focus on the world of Belmont and the young lovers reminding us of the true quality of mercy.
The text was cleanly interpreted with attention to detail despite the opening few minutes feeling garbled. For the most part, the cast of eight handled the multiple roles with a minimum of fuss though, despite best efforts, not all the minor characters worked equally. The singing (original music by Michael Mikulin) was tuneful though in song the text was no longer as clear.
The play kept the attention of the audience of mostly young people on a school excursion – a sign that something good was happening on stage.”
– Robin Pascoe, The West Australian
“The school kids of today probably do not realise how lucky they are having a wonderful theatre troupe like Class Act, who can bring the play into a contemporary mode, and deliver the original script it in a manner that is today’s normal conversation. Yet in doing this, amazingly none of the original quality or message is lost, quite the reverse it is totally comprehensible.”
“The cast’s timing was perfect, the intonation and enunciation was faultless. Everyone used their whole bodies to impart the full richness of the text. The use of mobile phones for the messages and an i-pod for Shylock to calculate his interest charges made the situation even more believable. “
– Gordon Johnston, Theatre Australia