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Greater London
posted/updated: 12 Jul 2019 -
The Merchant of Venice
William Shakespeare
society/company: Garden Suburb Theatre (GST) (directory)
performance date: 04 Jul 2019
venue: Little Wood Open Air Theatre, London NW11 6RJ
reviewer/s: Samantha Cartwright (Sardines review)


This is the second time within a week that I am visiting Little Oak Wood Open Air Theatre, this time it's an evening performance so everything's a bit more mysterious in the dark. The arena is lit beautifully and there is excitement in the air.

The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare, a play that invites us to follow Bassanio, a young Venetian, and his friends along his path to love. He has squandered his fortune and seen as though he wishes to win the heart of Portia, a wealthy heiress, he requires some financial help from his friend Antonio. Antonio has helped out on many occasions and is happy to again but his money is tied up in ships all of which are currently at sea. They approach a moneylender, Shylock who offers them a deal which they accept. If they can't pay him back on time, Shylock will be owed a pound of flesh from Antonio's body.

As I watch I'm impressed with how well the actors speak and act the Shakespearian language, the lines are performed in such a way that I understand everything that is being said, sometimes with Shakespeare it takes a few seconds for me to realise exactly what is happening, but this production has a certain way of doing things that keeps the plot and scenes clear.

It's humourus all the way through, especially the characters Launcelot and The Prince of Aragon (Geoff Prutton) I have a feeling this actor tends to play comedy roles in productions as his natural ability to make people laugh shines through. The entire play is well put together and entertaining to watch but for me there is one outstanding performance and that is Shylock (Amos Witztum). He steals the show, his performance is breathtaking. I feel as if I'm watching a professional actor who has been doing this for a very long time, when he speaks everyone is silent as if taking in every word. An entirely talented actor.

The scenery is very basic, and if I'm honest a little too simple, different props are brought on and off but nothing really changes between the scenes in Venice and the scenes in Belmont, it's the same the whole way through. I do understand the difficulty in working in such a small, enclosed by woodland, venue but having seen last week's production by the same company where the scenery is moved around to create different shapes and scenes I know that it is possible. The sound is a bit of an issue for me as well, sometimes music plays to move into another scene or as background noise for certain conversations but I find it quite difficult to hear the dialogue over it at points, it was altered each time but only after halfway through the scene.

All involved at Garden Suburb Theatre seem committed to putting on a good show and they succeeded in doing this. It was an enjoyable performance to watch.

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