A Shiny Life For Me!

a personal review blog by Bianca

The Merchant of Venice

The Merchant of Venice
05 March 2024
Criterion Theatre
5.0 out of 5.0 stars

The Merchant of Venice, currently playing at the Criterion Theatre, is a famously controversial play. Some read it as inherently antisemitic, while some modern audiences see the play, and its Jewish money lender character Shylock, read it in opposition to anti-Semitism, interpreting Shylock’s characterisation as an example of how discrimination and Christian hypocrisy forged a character with strong points to make.

Whichever interpretation the viewer might take themselves, this production makes groundbreaking changes. Set in 1936, the story is integrated with the historic battle of Cable Street. Having very recently seen the new musical Cable Street all about the inspiring barricade of East London streets to thwart a march of the British Union of Fascists, this enmeshing of a much older play with more recent as well as current history is visceral and engaging.

Tracy-Ann Oberman plays Shylock as a hardened widow, marked by her lived experience in a polarised society, drawing on personal and family history, creating a new vision of Shylock that is more heavily based on how the character got to the point of demanding their “pound of flesh” in the court. A passionate performance and call to action, to stand together rather than apart.

Including more immersive elements of low-level audience interactions in some scenes, the show is personal and up close, feels modern and traditional all at once. An intense, gorgeous, emotional production that is not to be missed!

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