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BrumHour saw The Merchant of Venice 1936 at the invite of The RSC.
By Dave Massey twitter.com/BrumHour
This production features elements of audience participation.
Review: The Merchant of Venice 1936 at The RSC Swan Theatre
⭐⭐⭐⭐A pacy drama.
Directed by Brigid Larmour
Tracy-Ann Oberman plays Shylock in this time-jumped Merchant of Venice set in 1936 London with the rise in fascism looming large in the background.
This update gives the production a large, dark feeling of doom and a much heavier tone than I’ve seen in other productions. The set itself feels like the belly of an ocean liner with light streaming from above picking out elements on stage, with the lights themselves feeling harsh, like those from older spotlights. The costumes are stunning and really pull elements of the 1930s and that feeling of people wearing their best clothing for business encounters.
Raymond Coulthard is a strong scene-stealer, playing moments larger than life, and the ladies disguising themselves as men also draws plenty of attention, but its Tracy-Ann Oberman’s impressive portrayal of Shylock, strong and confident which stands out the most.
At two hours and nearly ten minutes including interval, this cracks on at a pace, yet still finds time to mark elements of Jewish faith, inviting the audience at both the start and the end to feel welcome and involved.
The three-sided stage at The Swan Theatre makes me feel even closer to the action and utilises the walkways into the theatre effectively.
There are some light moments too, the story plays with Shakespeare’s book enough to nod to it and the audience enjoyed that. The dialogue feels fresh and new through this lens, and I always enjoy listening to the language of Shakespeare.
A pacy drama, The Merchant of Venice 1936 is at The RSC until 7th October 2023. Book tickets here: rsc.org.uk/the-merchant-of-venice.