The Merchant of Venice is one of Shakespeare’s most well known but least produced plays. After the success of Othello in 2011, the Sydney Shakespeare Company has decided that Shylock, Antonio, Portia and friends merit a platform at the Tap Gallery.
Steven Hopley, the company’s artistic director, describes it as an outsider story about suits and fairytales. Hopley has kept the original text but modernised the costumes and retained the actor’s native accents. He says that this increases clarity for both spectators and performers.
Another unique feature of the production is the size of the venue. The Tap Gallery sits a mere 65 people in a small space. Performing Shakespeare with a cast of 12 creates an intimate experience, a striking contrast to the large outdoor spectaculars which are so common in Australia. Hopley suggests that this allows the actors “the freedom to make the words natural to them and for the audience”.
Above all, the play is a comedy and its themes of intolerance, revenge, love and money resonate strongly with contemporary issues. This show is sure to reflect the thoughtful and erudite approach of its director and will undoubtedly be a unique and startling take on an old and familiar fable. (LR)
Aug 7-24, Tap Gallery, 278 Palmer St, Darlinghurst, $20-29, (02) 9361 0440, tapgallery.org.au