Review: The 21st Century Merchant of Venice, Drayton Arms

“But since I’m a bitch, beware my fangs”

Any production of The Merchant of Venice has to contend with the difficulties inherent in Shakespeare’s play with its virulent anti-Semitism and so adaptors sometimes take radical steps to try and make it more palatable for modern audiences or to at least locate it in a more acceptable dramatic framework. Carol Allen’s adaptation of the piece for McFarland Ray Productions singularly fails on both counts though, a brutally misconceived interpretation which is frequently baffling in its intent and bewildering in its execution.

In this version, Shylock becomes Sara Sherman, Antonio is a closeted practising Muslim, Portia hails from an Indian-born family and Antonio’s various followers are a melting pot of ethnicities and sexualities. So far so multicultural, but it just makes the intolerance shown towards Sara that much more inexplicable and combined with the fact she’s now a woman, the shadow of misogyny hangs horribly over the whole production (the text is liberally sprinkled with references to that ‘bitch’) – quite why this version of Venice is so schizophrenically unforgiving is unclear. Continue reading “Review: The 21st Century Merchant of Venice, Drayton Arms”