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Thursday, 28 May 2015

SPORT FOR JOVE’S ‘THE MERCHANT OF VENICE’ dissected by me

It’s not always easy to sit through the anti-Semitism of Shakespeare’s ‘The Merchant of Venice’ and Sport for Jove don’t shy away from it but what director Richard Cottrell does really well in this version is find the humour in the play to release its tension when we most sorely need it to.

Set in the 1920’s/30’s we are witness to the events of the play in a new context- dabble in the stock market and see prosperity crumble when your ‘ships’ crash. Antonio (James Lugton), rich and generous to his own, falls victim to his creditors in the form of Jewish money-lender Shylock (John Turnbull) and Shylock, angry and spurned by betrayal and religious persecution certainly wants his pound of flesh.

There are a number of things to commend this production to an audience. Firstly, the fine performances of its cast- especially Lizzie Schebesta as Portia, whose comic timing is impeccable and contrasted to her ability to portray status and gravitas. Turnbull and Lugton were also highlights and Damien Strouthos’ whiney and childish Gratiano captured the petulant traits of entitlement perfectly and Aaron Tsindos as the Prince of Morocco was a genuine crowd pleaser.

The play also created lasting images that pack quite the punch. There was an audible gasp from the audience when Antonio gives Shylock’s daughter Jessica (Lucy Heffernan) a look in the closing moments that suggested that her conversion and marriage to a Christian made her no less despicable in his eyes. The hate was palpable and disturbing and made each and every one of us uncomfortable. This juxtaposes with the humour of the marriage proposals to Portia and the colourful characters that attempt to win her fortune and heart.

Anna Gardiner’s set suffers a little from the need to be portable and lacks the lustre of other Sport for Jove productions but its versatility also gave it a few surprising conversions that allowed us to be transported to interior and exterior spaces easily; its art deco fa├žade also serving the play’s setting effectively.

This play has not always sat well with me but this is the first production of it that I have seen that has captured both sides of the play and allowed us to feel the gamut of emotions that are inherent in its content. This is a faithful and colourful rendition of Shakespeare’s problem play and well worth the effort to see it. 

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

HURRAH HURRAH’S ‘TRADE’ at the OLD 505 dissected by me

New company Hurrah Hurrah have taken the story of Jerome Kerviel, French rogue trader who lost €5 billion in illegal future tradings and have devised around the notion of greed, guilt, blame and redemption in a physical manifestation of the themes inherent in this story, more than a retelling of the narrative.

It’s a nice ensemble piece and although it lacks coherence in its form- how we get from one idea to the next is tenuous- it does produce some lovely images: the cocaine snorting, the violence, the use of the door frames to create new spaces and games, standing on the ledge. What Hurrah Hurrah do well is take the essence of the idea and play with its physical form to create committed, interesting characters with intensity and dimensions.

What is lacking from the performance is the critical eye of a director who can see the big picture and how it sits as a whole. The gorilla theatre style of the actors’ cooperative certainly allows for the group to input ideas as a collective experience but it has not yet mastered the art of finding the cohesion it is searching for. This means that the rhythm is disjointed; the engagement of audience is as inconsistent as the connection between images and we find ourselves working hard to stay with the ideas and message. But there is something animalistic about what is being expressed on stage that outweighs its inconsistency and  allows us to sometimes simply sit back and enjoy the message of man as primitive beast whose survival in a contemporary world thrives on lust for money and power, regardless of its effect on the community.


Trade is a piece that allows the company to showcase their skills and experiment with ideas in an interesting way. Once they refine its expression and cohesion, their work will hopefully become a sophisticated physical manifestation of current world issues that will appeal to a broader audience that moves it beyond the small community space and into the mainstream.