Merchant of Venice
By William Shakespeare
Directed by and starring Barrie Rutter
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
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 (www.northern-broadsides.co.uk).
Such a polished and confident production can only enforce Shakespeare’s
powerful and strong use of the spoken word.