Review: The Merchant of Venice
Local community theatre company New Farm Nash Theatre have achieved an entertaining and engaging production of this romantic but dark comedy.
In spite of a shoestring budget, the enthusiasm and dedication of the cast and crew make this more memorable and intimate than many bigger budget productions.
The Merchant of Venice is one of Shakespeare’s most notable comedies. A beautiful and wealthy heiress, Portia (Tegan Devine) is looking for a suitor. To make things difficult her deceased father stipulated in his will that potential suitors must pick from one of three boxes, one gold, one silver and one bronze, with only the correct choice granting permission to marry Portia.
Bassanio, a young noble Venetian plans to win Portia, but lacks the money to properly woo the heiress. He asks his merchant friend Antonio (Joshua Byrd) to lend him the necessary funds. Antonio agrees to help his friend by organising a loan from local Jewish money lender Shylock (Dennis Fadil).
Shylock, who despises Antonio, agrees to lend the money, but only on the condition that if the money is not repaid then Shylock may take a pound of flesh from Antonio.
The skill of the performers differs quite markedly, with NIDA-trained Tegan Devine easily the highlight of the cast. Tegan’s stage presence, diction and confidence helped her perfectly encapsulate the role of Portia.
Sandy Sharma is another highlight in playing the Prince of Morocco with such impressive and engaging comedic timing that she easily stole the scene.
Shylock is a difficult character to watch because by modern standards the writing and characterisation of a wicked Jewish money lender would be considered highly anti-semitic. Director Brenda White helps explain the writing of the character within its historical context in the play’s program.
Dennis Fadil’s portrayal of Shylock is incredibly impressive, especially as this is his acting debut. The soliloquy in which an enraged Shylock lusts for revenge was so convincing that it brought the entire audience to chilled silence and was one of the most memorable parts of the play.
For those who have never seen a Shakespearean play this is an accessible introduction to the work of the Bard.
The Merchant of Venice is playing until June 2 at Merthyr Uniting Church. More information at the Nash Theatre website.