Reviews for THE MERCHANT OF VENICE 2010
PERFECT SETTING FOR VIBRANT TELLING OF MERCHANT'S TALE.
A handful of actors, a stretch of lawn for a stage and some top-class Shakespeare on offer. It can only mean one thing - Theatre Set-Up were back on the Island.
The travelling theatre company has been visiting the Island for three decades now. They almost never disappoint and they certainly didn't this time with the lush New Zealand garden of Ventnor Botanic Garden providing a glorious backdrop for a two=night production of THE MERCHANT OF VENICE.
The cast numbered just seven, the props were minimal and the only "stage" was the two small tents that the actors could make their entrances and exits from.
If you are going to have such a stripped back Shakespeare, the quality of the acting is everything and, yet again, Theatre Set-Up had got together an impressive cast who told this familiar story with fresh vibrancy.
Such is the reputation Theatre Set-Up has built up on the island, the audience was large and out to enjoy a good evening. The joy was that once the play was underway the picnics were put aside and every one sat in rapt and silent attention throughout, so there was nothing to distract from the drama unfolding in front of us.
Jane Clutterbuck, Isle of Wight County Press
Celbrating 34 years of professional Shakespeare productions with an International Tour covering 34 venues in seven countries, Theatre Set-Up arrived, mid-tour, in the peaceful surround of Heathfield Walled Garden, Croydon.
Famed for Shylock's demanding of "a pound of flesh" and the adage that "all that glistens is not gold", The Merchant of Venice is often classed as one of Shakespeare's "problem plays", presenting a moral dilemma, with a keen balance between dark drama and comic tomfoolery.
And though much is speculated of the play's racist overtones, symbolism and hidden meanings, more importantly, this is a jolly good tale, and there can be no better way to comprehend the bard than by just watching a production of this quality - gimmick-free and beautifully presented.
The open air setting was minimalist with three pavilion tents set against the garden background - one tent either side of the playing area for costume changes, and one central in which sat the harpist.
There were no technical requirements of light or sound, as the actors' natural vocal projection was more than ample.
Costuming was most excellent, in the Venetian style of colourful wigs, masks and tricorn hats.
Much in the way that Shakespeare himself would have toured, Theatre Set-Up work with a reduced cast of just seven, hence each player took on several roles, including their own alter-ego.
Not that this detracted from the piece in that the individual characterisations were clearly defined in costume, posture and accent. Moreover, their great familiarity with the text and well choreographed action made the plot easily comprehensible to all.
Of the many fine portrayals from Richard Sanderson (Bassanio), Steven Rostance (Gratiano), Suzie Edwards (Portia), Jamie Blake (Solanio), and Elizabeth Arends (Nerissa), it was Tony Portacio (Shylock), also credited with directing the play, who impressed most as a well seasoned villain, while Terry Ashe (Antonio), almost stole the show with his cameo as the sand blind Old Gobbo.
But for the ants which took flight just before the interval, this was a near perfect lazy summer’s afternoon.
Peter Read, The Croydon Advertiser
Could there be anything lovelier than a word-perfect, inspired cast performing Shakespeare's classic lines in the style of an eighteenth century Venetian carnival, against the backdrop of the stunning Glastonbury Abbey with a harpist accompanying the ensemble?
The second half was perfect with excellent performances from all the hard-working cast - many of whom had more than one part to play. In particular I revelled in the comic Lancelot (Steven Rostance), the suitably-repulsive Shylock (Tony Portacio), and the clever and witty Portia (Suzie Edwards).
The minimalist set-up of the evening was cleverly done, with the ruined walls of the abbey adding to the atmosphere superbly along with the lighting and sound.
Extracts from the Somerset Gazette review by Emma Frampton at Glastonbury Abbey