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11 May 2012


The Merchant of Venice
Queen's Theatre, Hornchurch
Friday 11th May 2012

Shakespeare's romantic tale is full of unfortunate relevance to a modern audience.  Multiculturalism leading to racial intolerance; a warped sense of justice; a blinkered thirst for revenge; all recognisable elements of today's society, at home and abroad.  cut to the chase... however have not chosen to depress us with a dark political satire in this production, but instead focus on the upbeat love stories and a celebration of good triumphing over evil.

Although the poster suggested the style to be nearer Vegas than Venice, a particularly Venetian-looking and beautifully designed set, with a charming gazebo that doubled well as a location for the merchants to do business, a seat upon which Portia could be wooed and Antonio's dock during the final trial, was expertly realised and fitted the story and the space perfectly.  Costuming was bright but sporadic in period, with most of the gentlemen looking like they would fit in during the Napoleonic wars but Antonio donning a double-breasted suit like a Broadway gangster - some choices having to be shoehorned to fit with the stated early 1980s setting. 

Performances were clear and compelling across the board.  Josie Taylor's Portia was confident with a touch of knowing arrogance.  Each of her casket scenes were excellently staged, and her suitors equally both repellent and comically entertaining.  Matt Devitt played the merciless Shylock with unrelenting greed and touches of soliloquising sympathy in a well layered performance.

The ever impressive actor-musicians at cut to the chase... all added their musical talents to the atmospheric underscore.  Nerissa's (Kate Robson-Stuart) violin was particularly pretty, as was the flute and oboe duet between Jessica (Natasha Moore) and Lorenzo (Sam Kordbacheh).

An excellent courtroom scene built the final denouement to a climactic end and a joyous resolution between the couples.  Although not badly done I didn't understand the decision behind the 'Hot Stuff' song to conclude, but perhaps that's because I hadn't bought into the 1980s theme.  Regardless, this watchable company did a great job that I could easily have sat through again.

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