The Merchant of Venice (2011)
The world is at war. The Nazis have just entered Venice. The Ghetto is awash with rumour; entire families have disappeared overnight, shops are being closed down and it would appear that being a Jew is a dangerous business.
Seen through the eyes of Shealtiel, a young Jewish boy, the events of the play take place in the summer of 1943. As Bassanio attempts to pull off a deal that will enable him to flee Venice and the Nazis, Antonio puts up his body as surety to raise the capital, becoming indebted to his old enemy, Shylock. When Antonio's ships are torpedoed and he cannot repay the loan, Shylock calls on the merchant to give his pound of flesh...
The idea for the play first came to me 8 years ago, seeing Ute Lemper in concert. Her performance of The Lavender Song (Das Lila Lied, a cabaret song written in 1920 with lyrics by Kurt Schwabachand music by Mischa Spoliansky) brought the house to its feet. Whenshe explained that originally the lyric 'queer and different' would have encompassed not just gay men and lesbians, but other racial and social groups endangered by the rise of the far right, it set my mind ticking. Merchant was born. In this production the song is sung by a gay man, a lesbian, a Sinti Gypsy and a Jewish boy.
Setting The Merchant of Venice (2011) in Nazi occupied Italy gave the perfect setting to Shakespeare's tragi-comedy. The parallels between Elizabethan England, where it was illegal to practice Judaism and mid-war Italy where the horrors of the Holocaust were beginning to emerge are unique and poignant. The love story of Bassanio and Antonio fitted into this mix perfectly.
It's been a privilege working with such a talented and dedicated mix of actors and crew. And workingwith the RSC has been fantastic. It's been a powerful and moving experience for all of us.
- Antonio - Rob Hall
- Bassanio - Keiran Lowers
- Gratiano - Daniel Paul
- Portia - Sally Campion-Jones
- Nerissa - Ellen Hunter
- Shylock - Alan Brown
- The Prince of Arragon - Patrick Holt
- The Prince of Morocco - Wasim Juned
- Duke of Venice/Sea Captain - Philip Gill
- Salanio -- Annie Hayes
- Salarino - Siobhan Campbell
- Lorenzo - David Clements
- Jessica - Stephanie Urquhart
- Lancelot Gobbo - Erik Smith
- Old Gobbo - John Lyne
- Shealtiel - Jake Passmore
- Balthasar ("Mrs B") - Caroline Durant
- Nazi Official/Old Tubal - James Hough
- Assistant Director - Lee Ridgeway
- PA to the directors - Raffaella Patmore
- Stage Manager - Mark Ireson
- Sound Designer & Musical Director - Gerard Johnson
- Costume Designer - Lisa Thomas
- Choreographer - Brendan Murphy
- Lighting Designer - Gavin Parker
- Set Design - Stuart Draper & Hazel Hindle
- Lighting & Sound Operator - Daniel Goldsmith
- Assistant Sound/Lighting Engineer - Philip Maytom
- Assistant Stage Manager - Graham Clements
- Properties - Alan Buckman
- Set Construction - Mark Ireson, Graham Clements, Wesley Stewart, Kerry Perkins, Steve Ridgeway, Lee Ridgeway, Siobhan Campbell
- Photography - Phil Gammon
With thanks to: Val Williams, Jeanette Hoile, Ian Wainwright for the RSC, Mark Bullock, the cast and crew of Breathing Corpses, the staff at The Hope and everybody who has contributed time and energy to this show.
The production is dedicated to the loving memory of Maggie Checkley, a good friend who gave those without a voice a song of their own to sing. The children miss you.
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