The Merchant of Venice

Anna Santiago

On November 8th, as the door opens at Studio 58, theatre fanatics eagerly await the opening night performance of William Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice. Stage veteran and Studio 58 founder, Anthony Holland, stars and directs in this modern-day adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s most popular drama. CJSF correspondent, Anna Santiago, was there to take part in this unique performance… 

Shakespeare’s works have been on stage countless times in countless different ways. Every year, here in Vancouver, Bard on the Beach commemorates Shakespeare’s legacy by having performances at the Vanier Park. This year, Studio 58 also pays tribute to the legendary playwright with the Merchant of Venice; a story of love, betrayal and redemption. 

At first, walking into the theatre, one would think that they are just about to watch yet another theatrical performance. However, this adaptation of the Merchant of Venice is quite unique. Before the play commences, the audience is informed that the actors who will play each role is to be chosen each night before the play begins. This element of surprise for both the audience and the actors makes this free-fall style of Shakespeare intriguing and exciting. Its cast showcases a multitude of talents from different cultural backgrounds. 

Anthony Holland plays wise old man Shylock throughout the play’s run. For its opening night, Lindsey Angell (Portia), Danny Coleman (Bassanio), Genevieve Fleming (Jessica) and Rhys Finnick (Lorenzo) took the center stage as the two couples central to this story. Angell’s acting is whimsical and endearing while Fleming delivered a more serious performance. Though Merchant of Venice is considered as one of Shakespeare’s drama, this adaptation added some funny twists to the plot. With Gui Fontanezza as the Prince of Morocco, Rachel Aberle as Launcelot and Joel Grinke as Gratiano, hilarity ensues as they each take the spotlight and interact with other characters. Holland undoubtedly remains as one of the best performers I have ever watched on stage. His portrayal of the shrewd old Shylock is more entertaining than detestable. I last saw Holland as Morrie in Tuesdays with Morrie and the more I see of him, the more I have grown to admire his brilliant performances. 

Altogether the flow of the whole play was impressive despite the on-the-spot selection of performers. I was quite impressed with each actor’s ability to deliver each line eloquently despite the free-fall strategy. Perhaps the only weak performance came from Alisha Davidson (Duke of Venice). It was obvious how she was struggling with her lines and her performance was somewhat stale. However, despite Davidson’s performance, watching these amateur actors play their parts really well despite not knowing which character they will play that night tells me that they are indeed talented and worth watching. 

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  • Posted on: 18 March 2016
  • By: Administrator