the merchant of Venice
WRITER WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
PRODUCER ROYAL BIRMINGHAM CONSERVATOIRE
DESIGNER ROBERT DICKS
COMPOSER NICOLAS ATHANASIADES
LIGHTING MARK PRITCHARD
SOUND DESIGN DAVID TINSON
FEATURING ACTORS FROM RBC (FORMALLY BIRMINGHAM SCHOOL OF ACTING)
The UK, now cut from the single market, is in the midst of finalizing difficult new trade deals with their international partners. We are in London’s ‘Venice sector’, a place of speculation both professionally and personally. Antonio, the Christian merchant, has fallen on hard times as widespread uncertainty has placed his business in jeopardy. He takes a calculated risk by lending fellow Christian, Bassanio, money for his romantic quest to try and wed the socialite, Portia. Antonio doesn’t have the capital upfront, it is bound up in his cargo ships traveling from various international destinations, so is forced to borrow from an unlikely source, Shylock the Jewish usurer, a Polish national now living in London. The penalty for not paying back the loan by the date decreed: a pound of Antonio’s flesh. Shylock’s radical demands are ultimately dismantled in the courtroom and he is stripped of his Jewish faith. He must join the modern capitalist congregation.
Hate crime surged in the UK during the weeks after the EU referendum, according to a set of figures released by the National Police Chief’s Council. There was a 49% rise in xenophobic incidents. Obviously the anti-immigrant sentiment has been thrown right to top of the national (and international) debate. Indeed Donald Trump thrives on his use of fearful rhetoric in his attempts to win the US Presidency. Are we entering a new age of mistrust for those considered ‘outsiders’ in our society?
So when we are forced to place Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice in our morally dubious modern world it reveals itself as a cautionary tale.
Performed at the Old Rep Theatre in 2016.