Settling down in a last minute seat at the RSC for Merchant, apart from the delicious meal we’d just eaten in the Rooftop Restaurant (highly recommended), my mind couldn’t help but turn to Creation’s Merchant in the summer of 2013.
A soggy summer it might have been but Natalie Abrahami’s version on the rooftop of The Said Business School was all sweetness and light. The cast learnt the ukulele, a revolve created a charming gondola scene and everything ended generally just happily ever after.
Not so at Stratford. The preset had us watching a tortured Antonio battle as yet undisclosed inner demons, and each character seemed almost to be thrust onto the stage as if they were being chased.
Patsy Ferran’s Portia only really came into her own for me once she got into her disguise, but then maybe you just get to be more interesting in 16th Century Venice when you’re dressed as a man?
The main interest in The Merchant of Venice, for me, is always the underlying mercantile values; the threat that simply overturning Shylock’s case could bring down one of the world’s great cities. This version had that awareness running all the way through it and was richer for it.
As always at the RSC the spectacle was the star of the show, a huge (for Creation anyway) cast, beautiful music, sparse but affecting design and a fair few star turns made for a most thought provoking evening.
Certainly not a summer picnic, but a perfect spring evening to put your faith in the RSC.