Wick Theatre Company celebrate 75 years with The Merchant of Venice
and live on Freeview channel 276
Spokeswoman Susanne Crosby said: “This classic play is fraught with many difficulties in current times as it is billed as a comedy yet the main thread of the plot is far from comedic. This very special version sees the tale brought completely up to date as the ideas are already current; not least are the themes of religious prejudice and the fundamental sense of right and wrong.
“This main thread is of Antonio, who borrows money from Shylock and instead of interest, they agree if Antonio cannot pay that he must give a pound of his flesh to Shylock. Taken out of context this might seem ludicrous to our modern eyes but as it unfolds in the play it is easy to understand how this happens as there is no way in anyone’s view that Antonio would not have the money to pay Shylock back. Then of course disaster strikes and they wind up in court with Shylock seeking just what he is owed.
“The comedy plot strand in the play is more a rom-com of today where a rich daughter Portia is curbed by her father’s last wishes to only marry whoever guesses correctly to find her portrait in one of three different caskets. An array of arrogant suitors then try their luck, cueing much hilarity, until she finds her true love, Bassanio. Both strands come together in the courtroom and while there are additional aspects of this which in Shakespeare’s day would have been aimed at being comedic, they are far from that now and actually tragic.
“Shakespeare’s comedies all neatly tie up with everyone married off and living happily ever after.
“This is the exception to that rule: for this, and many other reasons scholars have debated whether this is a play about anti-Semitism or an anti-Semitic play. This is certainly a play about prejudice and where it can lead, and the consequences of repressing and subjugating people. Antonio is a Christian and Shylock is a Jew, the recipient of discrimination all his life as was the society at that time.
“His most famous and heartfelt speech including the lines ‘If you prick us, do we not bleed?’ shows his viewpoint and speaks of equality and parity so clearly and probably more eloquently than many can manage today. There is anti-Semitism woven throughout the play from the way Shylock is greeted to the outcome where he is completely destroyed, yet still alive. To bill this as a comedy would therefore be insulting. While director Sam Razavi has kept the comedy alive in the rom-com strand of the plot, the play is a dramatic one when it portrays the relationships with Shylock and the outcome of the bargain he and Antonio have struck.”
Sam said: “It is a superb commentary on the greatest failure of humanity: the inability to eradicate prejudice from our day to day lives.”
The Merchant of Venice runs Weds, March 8 to Sat , March 11 at 7.45pm.
Book through www.wicktheatre.co.uk or Ticket Source 0333 666 3366 (transaction fee on phone bookings).