This production is a Stage Must-See


Assembly Hall

Theatre Reviewed by Gerald Berkowitz

Gareth Armstrong was nominated for The Stage's acting award in 1998 for his solo show on Shakespeare's Venetian Jew, and now Guy Masterson, who directed him then, returns to play the role himself.

The differences between the two are instructive, because while Armstrong inhabited the character, Masterson always remains a little outside him.

His mode is that of a really, really good teacher sharing his excitement and love of the material in an irresistibly infectious way, so that the end product is just as enthralling, though perhaps not quite as moving.

Armstrong's text actually begins with the lesser character of Shylock's Jewish friend Tubal, and thus invites an external relation to the moneylender, as do the thoroughly researched and fascinating digressions into the history of Jews in British history and drama and in the later theatrical history of Shakespeare's play.

Of course the script does keep returning to Shakespeare's text, with Masterson offering intelligent readings of all Shylock's major scenes while also stepping back to comment on them.

In Masterson's hands, with Armstrong now directing, the play may not move you to tears, but it is likely to send you eagerly to the next opportunity to see The Merchant of Venice itself.

Published online
Review by
Gerald Berkowitz
Published in The Stage Newspaper on
Produced by
Assembly Theatre presents Guy Masterson - Theatre Tours International
Gareth Armstrong
Running time
1 hour 15 minutes
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