Bell Shakespeare Company Photo credit Prudence Upton
Last Friday night, I attended the opening show of Bell Shakespeare‘s The Merchant of Venice at the Canberra Theatre Centre. I went in with a quick Wikipedia search of the brief plot (The Merchant of Venice was one of the Shakespeare plays I had not studied at either school or university), and found myself already baffled and confused by the complexity of the many subplots. I needn’t have worried. The Bell Shakespeare production was delivered with such clarity and expression that I had absolutely no trouble getting lost in the excitement and drama of the story, and never once felt like it went over my head.
Jo Turner (as Antonio) Photo credit Prudence Upton
Felicity McKay (as Jessica) and Shiv Palekar (as Lorenzo) Photo credit Prudence Upton
Shakespeare can be quite daunting. The language, rhythm and detail definitely turns a lot of people off, and it can seem exclusive (I definitely was one of the younger, less literary attendees at the launch on Friday). I’ve said this before, and my friends and family are probably sick to death of me exclaiming it, but Bell Shakespeare are brilliant at making accessible dramas and transforming Shakespeare from English professors to what it was all intended to be – pure entertainment. Not one joke was lost on the audience on Friday night, and by the end of it, everyone was experiencing the highs and lows of the tragic tale – I definitely found myself wiping away a couple of stray tears (it’s allergy season, guys…).
Jessica Tovery (as Portia) and Damien Strouthos (as Bassanio) Photo credit Prudence Upton
You don’t need to know the plot before going to see The Merchant of Venice. Just be prepared to cry both with laughter and with heartache for a story where no one is really the hero. It’s a tale that shows the perils of revenge – no one is really ever left unscarred.
Want to see more of Bell Shakespeare? The Canberra Theatre’s 2018 Season guide is out now.
*I was a guest of the Canberra Theatre Centre. All opinions are my own. You can see more of my disclosure policy HERE.