pocket cast

Pocket Merchant (of Venice)

Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

*****

PROPELLER is one of my favourite companies for a variety of reasons; first it is true to Shakespeare and the beauty and thrill of his language shine through, second it is amazingly clever about supporting changes to language that might make it a tad impenetrable for modern audiences with clues we know from television and film.

On top of that, and maybe more importantly, it knows how to tell a good story. This production doesn’t disappoint. It is eyebrow deep in the elements that characterise Propeller’s work; clarity, wit and energy.

The ‘Pocket’ Merchant is a pared-down diamond, expertly cut with a lapidarist’s skill into the weightiest carat gem that it is possible to fit into an hour of ‘entertainment’.

The Merchant of Venice is a challenging play, tackling all sorts of prejudice and social exclusion, against Jews, women and the intransigence and inhumanity of the law.

Propeller have taken the centre, the kernel of the play, to highlight in their inimical style incorporating humour, music and more so it becomes truly shocking, truly thought-provoking.

On stage, the set is also pared back with only a huge, movable cage, some chairs and a filthy toilet that Shylock’s daughter Jessica (Jon Trenchard) is forced to clean with a toothbrush.

Merchant Bassanio (Max Hutchinson) asks his friend the Christian Antonio (Darrell Brockis) for 3,000 Ducats to buy an engagement ring for his love Portia (Jon Trenchard). Antonio, waiting for his ill-fated ship to come in, has to borrow it from Shylock (Chris Myles), the Jew, and Antonio’s attitude to interest and ‘usury’ is such that the bargain they strike instead of interest is ‘a pound of flesh’ from nearest to Antonio’s heart.

The debt cannot be paid back in the three months agreed so it goes to court in front of the Duke, the arbiter. In law, the Duke (Oliver Wilson) has no choice but to stand by and watch helplessly the death of Antonio.

But, Portia is a clever lady and arrives at the court room as Balthazar, a lawyer from Padua with a plan. The sense of drama escalates until her brainwave allows the escape of Antonio and condemnation of Shylock for his cruel plan.

Propeller supports this production, which I suspect from looking around me at the audience, is chiefly intended for schools with a free education pack. And I look forward with immense anticipation to their Belgrade visit early next year with a ‘Pocket Dream’. To 24-10-15

Jane Howard

19-10-15

Midlands dates so far for Pocket Dreams, a pared down Midsummer Night’s Dream

Thursday 4 - Saturday 6 February - The Belgrade, COVENTRY

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Wednesday 17 & Thursday 18 February, Garrick Theatre, LICHFIELD, WS13 6HR Tickets. 01543 412121

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