The Merchant of Venice

By William Shakespeare
Directed by and starring Barrie Rutter
Everyman Theatre

Reviewed by John Murphy

This is the second production I have seen by Northern Broadsides theatre group and the second time I have found myself transfixed by their compelling performances. For anybody who knows Shakespeare, it can be very intense to watch, however the experience and enjoyment can be aided by the production of the play and the stage presence of its actors which in this case is first class.

The merchant of Venice has all the qualities you would expect and want from a Shakespearian play. The crux of the play deals with an outstanding bond between a rich Jew called Shylock and Antonio (The Merchant of Venice) a flawed Christian who is despite being successful believes money cannot buy happiness. The anti Semitism felt by Antonio is the fuel for the conflict and makes for the most powerful scenes in the play. Shylock agrees to lend money to Antonio only on one account, that if payment is not met within the deadline, he will take a pound of flesh from Antonio’s breast. This condition highlights the hate between the two men and gives the story a real brutal element. As with all Shakespeare plays the rest of the characters add humour and romance in all the right places.

Barrie Rutter who plays Shylock and directed the play is the founder of Northern Broadsides. He has done film, radio and recently appeared in Fat Friends on ITV, but is best known for his theatre work of which he says he enjoys the most. With a commanding personality and effortless charisma he dominates the stage, it is hard to take your eyes off his reactions even when the action is not centered on him.

With an experienced cast giving superb performances and the composer Conrad Nelson adding a contemporary musical ingredient the piece works very well for today’s audiences. So if you love Shakespeare or have never seen a play I urge you to keep a look out for forthcoming productions from Northern Broadsides (

Such a polished and confident production can only enforce Shakespeare’s powerful and strong use of the spoken word.