In high school, I was a victim of a sweeping wave of political correctness that spread over middle Canada. Cloaked as concern, prudish, naked and paternalistic conservatism did things like prevent The Merchant of Venice from being taught in school due to its anti-Semetic and rascist overtones.As such, I had never read or seen the play performed until tonight, and so it was kind of strange, considering I also took Shakespeare for a year in Uni. The strange thing about the Globe's production, as excellent as it is for stage production, acting and sheer enjoyability, is that the central tension of Merchant and something every director needs to come to grips with is this : You need to make a call on Shylock. Somehow, The Globe this season manages to avoid this. Comedic emphasis and elevation of the minor plots and consequences around the central plot seem to almost take precedence over it, and while it makes Merchant a much less darker and frankly more fun play, you leave the production feeling a little unfulfilled because of it. Perhaps that's what the Director was aiming for... that in a modern world of systemic racism and we have bread and circuses to keep us entertained that perhaps racism is all the worse for still being present, but unresolved and going virtually unnoticed, despite its distastefulness and effects. I'd like to think that... that would be almost sublime. But for some reason it never comes across like that. Shylock, while well played, lacks a decision and the play seems poorer for it despite being an excellent evening out. Should the Merchant even be fun ? The sad fact is, I'm poorly positioned to critique. Having not read it in my academic days, I'm going to have to go back and pore over it myself before deciding if it's a harsh critique or not. Still, well worth the ticket price and still one of the best values in London for the theatre.
Posted by Daryl on