Lots of colourful razzmattaz

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Royal Shakespeare Theatre

Stratford upon Avon

Merchant of Venice in repertoire until September 26

Ticket hotline 0844 800 1110

Review by John Hardeman

This ‘Merchant’ provides three hours of high octane, modern entertainment that thrusts Shakespeare’s word at speed into the twenty-first century.

The deep-seated purist may have a few doubts but Robert Goold’s stunning production turns the play into a rich mixture of human emotions, and carries with it some considerable amusement, too. It all begins in a noisy Las Vegas casino and settles in to the arena of an American televised talk and game show in which are used the three caskets of gold, silver and lead as the challenge.

There is plenty of razzmattaz in this colourful production, a surfeit of Elvis Presley’s hits for example, and a passing moment of Batman and Robin, but then comes the drama of Shylock’s demand for his pound of flesh, and the denouement.

Patrick Stewart as Shylock , and Scott Handy as the debtor, Antonio, eventually paraded in Guantanamo Bay prison jump suit, are masterly in this memorable entry into the RSC’s 50th birthday season but it is Susannah Fielding’s Portia and Emily Plumtree’s maid, Nerissa, that almost steal the show. But then importantly there is Daniel Percival, who as an ‘Elvis’ Lorenzo drives this Merchant into something of a musical.