Get a personalised letter from Santa

Review: Globe on Tour’s Merchant of Venice at Cambridge Arts Theatre - devilish casting that fails to create a spell

PUBLISHED: 00:13 30 August 2018 | UPDATED: 08:59 30 August 2018

Sarah Finigan as Shylock and Russell Layton as Antonio in The Globe on Tour's Merchant of Venice

Sarah Finigan as Shylock and Russell Layton as Antonio in The Globe on Tour's Merchant of Venice


It seems that The Globe is so utterly bored with Shakespeare’s plays that it will do anything to amuse itself, regardless of whether that results in something entertaining for the paying public.

The Globe on Tour’s Merchant of Venice currently playing in rep at Cambridge Arts Theatre with The Taming of the Shrew and Twelfth Night, with eight actors playing all the parts in all three plays, has age-blind casting as well as gender-blind.

So we have Portia (who Shakespeare describes in the script as “an unschooled girl” and is probably about 15) played by a woman, albeit glamourous, old enough to be her granny.

Equally, the ages of a blind father and his son are reversed so the young man plays the older and vice-versa.

It’s all highly distracting. And if the audience isn’t allowed for one minute to forget they are watching A PLAY, then the actors certainly don’t. It’s as if you have wandered in on a drama school exercise.

Still, it’s not the actors’ fault when you get a director with ideas he thinks are interesting: let’s just throw everything up in the air and see where it lands. Let’s try it out in the provinces where it doesn’t matter.

There are some potentially good performances here. Luke Brady is a charming Bassanio, with a graceful and natural performance. But then he has the advantage of playing an attractive young man when he is one. Cynthia Emeagi as both Shylock’s daughter Jessica and the Prince of Morocco gave strong portrayals as both.

It could have worked wonderfully having Shylock played by a woman. Women in the middle ages did run businesses and Sarah Finigan makes sense of the role and brings a lot of humanity to it. If the other characters had been cast with sensitivity instead of for devilment, hers would have been allowed to be a stand-out performance. As it was, it was lost in the sea of self-conscious, stylised, swaggering that was all around her.

This play has poetry, pathos and humour. That comes across even in a production like this when you spend most of the time wincing. But it was an effort to try to concentrate on the lines when the direction seemed designed to distract you from them. As Portia says: “Nothing is good without respect.”


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Saffron Walden Reporter visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Saffron Walden Reporter staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Saffron Walden Reporter account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More news stories

Christmas is starting early in Saffron Walden this year and is shaping up to be the busiest festive period ever.

Yesterday, 21:42

A man who was pursued by Essex Police for six miles through Uttlesford has been charged with driving offences.

Yesterday, 15:21

Police were called to Stansted Mountfitchet station this afternoon following reports of a person being struck by a train.

Yesterday, 14:18

Police were called to reports of a person being struck by a train between Stansted Airport and Bishop’s Stortford this afternoon.

Digital Edition

Read the Saffron Walden Reporter e-edition E-edition

Most read stories

Newsletter Sign Up

Saffron Walden Reporter weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy