The Merchant of Venice
Directed by Ben Margalith
1 — 23 DEC 2023
Approx. 90 minutes with interval
St Kilda Botanical Gardens
This December, Melbourne Shakespeare Company are proud to present The Merchant of Venice. This family friendly show will be in our unique style combining live music, larger than life characters and lots of laughs. This action packed piece will run for 90 minutes without an interval.
The Merchant of Venice is often described as “a problem play”, but why? At its core, this is a standard “by the book” Shakespearean comedy: the villain’s plans get foiled, the lovers get married, and everyone lives happily ever after. It’s also extremely funny. So, where is the “problem”? In a word, the problem is Shylock. Shylock, a word steeped in a hodgepodge of antisemitic tropes, unconscionable and predatory money lending, and echoing a caricature of villainy and duplicity. So great is the shadow of the word “Shylock” that we as an audience lose sight of the human struggle at the foundation of this play.
Our Shylock is more than a villain, she is a successful self-made entrepreneur; a Jewish mother in a society that labels her an outcast; and in the male-dominated world of the venetian Rialto, she is a pillar of wealth and power. While the male characters of The Merchant of Venice seem to only view women as a means to further their quest to gain wealth, it is the female characters who are concerned with deeper questions of Faithfulness, Mercy, and Justice. And so it is with Shylock, who manages to straddle the line between these two worlds.
I am delighted to be able to work with the Melbourne Shakespeare Company on this complex and comedic play. The Merchant of Venice holds a special place in my heart, particularly in that it allows me a rare instance to consider aspects of my own religious Jewish upbringing while exploring the richness of the text. It has been such a pleasure to work with MSC and this talented group of professionals. The Merchant of Venice encourages us to examine our own beliefs and biases. What would you do if given the chance to turn the tables on those oppressing you? At what point is forgiveness no longer an option?
We wish to advise audience members that this play portrays a community starkly divided by hatred, antisemitism, racism,and mistrust in a way that is not and should not be completely comfortable. This play does not exist in a vacuum but instead it demands education and ongoing conversation.
We will be holding Q & A sessions after each of our matinee shows where we invite further discussion. These sessions are free to attend with no ticket purchase required.
Despite the harmful elements, in the end, The Merchant of Venice is a comedy and this production was built in a rehearsal space full of love and laughter. We hope this production makes you laugh, makes you smile and also makes you think.
The Merchant of Venice CAST
The Merchant of Venice TEAM
Jennifer Sarah Dean