The Merchant of Venice

Pembroke Player’s home leg of their Japan Tour demonstrates impressive acting, despite a sparse production

pembroke players Shakespeare Theatre

Pembroke Players gave their penultimate performance of Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice in Pembroke’s New Cellars last night. If you are free tonight: go.

Without a single moment of weak acting the audience were treated to some spectacularly intimate moments.

The most impressive aspect was the cast’s complete command of the verse. It was delivered in a manner which made even the most complicated language easily understood. A special mention should be given to Charlie Merriman for his portrayal of Bassanio.

As this production had to be taken around Japan, the set was sparse: only three white screens and a few props. This, however, by no means detracted and the authentic style allowed for a powerful reading. In fact, it was refreshing to see a Shakespeare play done without an attempt to superimpose larger concepts.

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There was much effective characterisation, especially George Kan’s exceptional portrayal of Shylock. By playing him as the victim of the Venetian antisemitism of the time, the audience sympathised throughout. At the end, we were left conflicted at the sentencing, unable to  fully to support either him or Antonio (James Ellis).

The light-hearted moments, brought out splendidly by Sam Grabiner, had the audience in fits of laughter – although somewhat overshadowed the comedy from Salarino and Solanio.

The New Cellars as a venue sadly left a fair amount to be desired, especially in terms of actually being able to see the play. The experience was somewhat akin to a school nativity, with just blue plastic chairs for seating. However, the acting was of such a high standard that we soon forgot about the surroundings.

This is a fantastic production and strongly recommended for anyone wanting to see a perceptive and extremely well-acted show.