On entering the theatre we were met by what looked like a Las Vegas casino. The way that Rupert Goold turned the small stage into a big place was genius, creating a feeling of two different worlds – Portia’s Belmont and Antonio’s Venice. Whilst taking our seats the casino was developed really well: there were waitresses wearing next to nothing, tourists, regulars and lots of drinking. At 7:15 the spotlight hit one of the tables and Launcelot Gobbo popped up dressed as Elvis and belted out ‘Viva Las Vegas’ . The show had begun.
Throughout the first half there were many surprises, such as Bassanio and friends driving sports cars and attending fancy dress parties; Portia and Nerissa’s game show; and Launcelot’s many musical appearances. Portia’s game show was a very imaginative way of showing the famous three caskets scene. Portia looked very trashy, with massive hair, a very short skirt and massive wedged heels. Nerissa was no better – the only difference was she was wearing blue instead of pink. The blue-pink theme went on until the very end of the play. It shocked me to see how two faced Portia was throughout the play. In the last scene, when Shylock is about to cut Antonio’s flesh, she gives her “quality of mercy” speech, but earlier on she was very cruel to Rebbecca because she and her father are Jews.
Although most of the play was performed on a lighter note the last scenes were quite dark. In the courtroom it was quite scary – you could feel the tension rising as Shylock lifted the knife.
The Merchant of Venice is playing at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre until 4th October. For more information and tickets see the website here.