The Barn Theatre, Southwick Community Centre
March 8, 9, 10, 11 2023
The Merchant of Venice
by William Shakespeare
Directed by Sam Razavi
YouTube trailer link
Shylock – a Jewish moneylender : Dan Dryer
Bassanio – a friend of Antonio and suitor to Portia : Sam Razavi
Salarino – various entities : Diane Robinson
Salanio – various entities : Rosy Armitage
Portia – a Belmont heiress and influencer : Nicola Russell
Nerissa – reality TV host and friend of Portia : Susanne Crosby
Gratiano – friend of Antonio, partial to a pint or twelve : John Garland
Lorenzo – in love with Jessica : David Aitchison
Jessica – daughter of Shylock : Lauren Brakes
Morocco – suitor to Portia : Abbi Crawford
Arragon – suitor to Portia : Luke Mepham
Launcelot – servant to Shylock : Emily Dennett
Gobbo – Gobbo – father to Launcelot : Peter Joyce
Duke – Duke of Venice : Peter Joyce
Servant – Messenger – Clerk : Ethan Dryer
Designer – Sam Razavi
Producer – Susanne Crosby
Stage Manager – Peter Joyce
Deputy Stage Manager – Peter Dilloway [member of Southwick Players]
Lighting Design – Martin Oakley
Lighting Design – Susanne Crosby
Lighting Operation Martin Oakley
Lighting Operation – Torrin Gieler
Sound Design – Sam Razavi
Sound Design – Bob Ryder
Sound Operation – Jeff Woodford
Costume Design and Wardrobe – Lindsay Midali
Costume Design and Wardrobe – Maggi Pierce
Costume Design and Wardrobe – Susanne Crosby
Properties – Di Tidzer
Properties – Doffey Reid
Properties – Lindsay Midali
Properties – Susanne Crosby
Set Design, Construction and Painting – Sue Chaplin
Set Design, Construction and Painting – Dave Comber
Set Design, Construction and Painting – Nigel Goldfinch
Set Design, Construction and Painting – Mike King
Set Design, Construction and Painting – Sue Netley
Set Design, Construction and Painting – Gary Walker
Programme Cover, Flyer and Poster Artwork – Judith Berrill
Publicity and Programme – Suse Crosby
Films – Trailer – Sam Razavi
Programme Note #1: The Merchant of Venice
SR writes: “This is my first time directing for the Wick Theatre Company, and how the stars align to have the pleasure of putting on this play, in this day and age ,,,, before it is too late! In a world where one cannot dare breathe for offending one person or another, I have no doubt in my mind that there will come a day when the absurdity of modern-day society will eventually succumb to being outraged, offended and feeling vulnerable for words and plotlines written by a poet some half a century ago, the denouement seeing some of the greatest literary works of all time retired eternally to the naughty corner to gather dust and be forgotten.
In just the last hundred years we have made some huge advancements in technology. We can speak to friends some thousands of miles away and see them at the same time – who would have thought that! We have travelled to the moon. Built robots. Yet from the very beginning of time, while the intellect and abilities of the human race seem to flourish and multiply beyond the imagination, we cannot find it within ourselves to eradicate the complete and utter absurd stupidity that is prejudice, from our day to day lives. What is it that keeps us feeding and watering this ugly and unwelcome monster that has walked hand-in-hand with the human race for centuries?
“The Merchant of Venice” is a superb vessel in highlighting the pitfalls of making unreasoned and unproven judgement of people, of giving power to those not fit to handle it; of hating each other simply because of differences such as religious or political beliefs. At best, it leads to nonsensical conflict – at worst, when the most undesirable of people are given permission to wield high the filthy arm of prejudice, it can lead to a scarring of history in the most horrific ways.
This is the classic story of the Jewish banker Shylock pitted against the Christian merchant Antonia; but more than that. It is a story that allows us to shine a light on issues that were, are, and will continue to be, fundamentally wrong in society.
I have to thank all the cast and crew for working so tirelessly on bringing this story to life and exercising patience and understanding in realising my vision of the play, to all the production team who have done wonders, to Miles Davies for his wonderful photography, and in particular to producer Suse Crosby without whose tireless assistance, advice and input throughout the process, the Merchant would not have docked his ship in Southwick!”
Programme Note #2: The Merchant of Venice
‘Comedy, or not a comedy?’ that is the question
Shakespeare’s comedies are tied up neatly at the end: lovers married off, siblings reunited, everyone happy. Therefore, for this play to be classified as a comedy in current thinking is a bit of a problem, as one character is all but destroyed at the end. In Shakespeare’s day it was probably seen as ‘just deserts’, and horrifyingly it took until the 18th Century for people to even start seeing character as sympathetic
Leading to the age-old question. Is this pay about anti-Semitism or is it an anti-Semitic play? That Shakespeare is able to write so beautifully from this character’s viewpoint is empathy at least. The trouble is anti-Semitism is woven throughout the writing of the whole play – through the ways the characters refer to any Jewish people, including continuous sentiment that people only become better if the convert to Christianity. It is a play that shows prejudice in plain sight. It is easy to see that this was one of the most performed plays in Nazi Germany, with more than 50 productions between 1933 and 1939.
There are obviously some ridiculous comedic moments in other parts of the play. But, unless it’s funny to laugh at someone having absolutely everything taken away from them: not just money and home but their personality, values and core beliefs – whatever they might have done to prompt this, comedy is surely the last thing it can be.
Publication: Brighton Source
Publication Data: March 17 2023 – on-line
Reviewer: Mike Aiken
Text Header: Merchant of Venice Review
The Wick Theatre Company are never shy about sticking their neck out. So we shouldn’t be surprised that they took on ‘The Merchant of Venice’ which – for a modern audience – is one of Shakespeare’s most awkward plays.
Shylock (Dan Dryer) is a Jewish money lender in the era before banks were around to offer loans. Antonio (Guy Steddon), meanwhile, is a need of a bit of cash for some of his overseas trading that’s been becalmed across the ocean. It could have been a business partnership made in heaven.
But Shakespeare’s script portrays Shylock – the outsider – in a stereotypical way as greedy and vengeful. When Antonio offers a pound of his own flesh to the, allegedly, mean Shylock – as a form of extra security on the loan – it may have all gone too far.
Will Shylock enforce that claim? What part of Antonio’s body might be taken? But, if Antonio is harmed in any way then it will be Shylock, as the outsider, who would be punished or forced to convert to Christianity.
Still, ‘flesh’ may have a double meaning here. Antonio’s best mate, Bassanio (Sam Razzavi), is rather keen on a well-off woman called Portia (Nicola Russel). ‘Basso’ would be set up for life if Portia said ‘I do’! But the women in this play turn out to be pretty cool and one step ahead. So Portia and her mate Nerissa (Susanne Crosby), disguised as blokes, sail off smartly for a good time in Venice.
The rapid scene changes, coloured costumes (Lindsay Midali and Maggi Pierce) and lights (Martin Oakley, Torrin Gieler) created subtle backdrops to the action. There’s a nod to contemporary times with a sign on stage announcing ‘Lock Financial Solutions.’ Then the women challenge the noble prince to choose one of three pretty caskets to open. It’s like an afternoon on Brighton pier. Find your fortune! You might get lucky! Oh dear, someone’s just won an old skull.
This production, at the Barn Theatre in Southwick, is a long way from being a play that is acted out solely beneath a proscenium arch. So there is a lively movement of actors coming from the front or sides or moving through the back of the audience, subtly unsettling us.
Sam Razavi, the director, reminds us in the programme to ask – as generations of critics have asked before – ‘is this a play about anti-Semitism or is it an anti-Semitic play’? This is taken seriously as, towards the end, the performance segues in brief – but bold – quick film clips of political protests from recent history. These seek to illuminate commitments to a society based on justice and freedom while opposing racism and anti-Semitism.
Brave, bold and contentious: A story for, and of, our times.
Barn Theatre Southwick
Thursday 9th March
Publication: On-line reaction to performances
Publication Data: March 08 – 11 2023 – on-line
Reviewers: Collated audience Feedback
Text Header: Merchant of Venice Review
1. Hand on Heart I’m not sure I am intellectual enough for Shakespeare, never got past the early learning books, but I have to say I really appreciate what they have done to this with this play on so many levels, I personally really liked and recommend it as worth seeing
2. Saw a wonderful performance of The Merchant of Venice last night (Wick Theatre Company ). Directed brilliantly by Sam Razavi, it was a faithful rendition of Shakespeare’s dialogue but brought totally up to date. Loved the game show bits! Stand out cameos by Luke Mepham and Abby Crawford as Portia’s suitors, the gameshow contestants.
Great performances all round. Well done!
3. I don’t normally like ‘updated or tinkered with Shakespeare’, but I have to make an exception for this show which was absolutely superb, and great performances all round. Well done to all concerned!!!
4. We came yesterday. Well done to everyone involved. It was a great show x
5. Saw this last night. Fabulous acting and brilliant vision Sam Razavi. Well done all. I studied this at school years ago.
6. Originally written as a comedy I was so impressed to see this version separating the comedic elements from the historical isolation, alienation and humiliation of difference. Tragic these beliefs aren’t assigned to history. Loved it!
7. Huge congratulations to Sam Razavi for The Merchant of Venice at Wick Theatre Company * I do love it when a Director takes a few risks, creates some welcome surprises, and puts a lot of thought in to create a stark backdrop. Some super ideas and gorgeous performances. Ethan Dryer – what a belter Enjoy your final show tomorrow all
8. A professional production from a very good amateur company. An excellent effort from all the cast. For many of them their first Shakespeare play…..
9. A different production. I applaud the director’s aim to counter balance and soften the historic racist theme. Cast gave very good performances….
10. I just wanted to say again how much I enjoyed the play last night. I was blown away by your imagination and ability to bring new ideas on an old play to life. I hope the rest of the week goes well. Many congratulations.
11. “The Wick Theatre Company” produce to the highest level of originality and interpretation values. Their latest presentation of “The Merchant of Venice” once again, gives a captivating and bang up to date confrontation with issues of prejudice, racism and anti-semitism faced head on. The concluding scenes are absolutely stunning and profoundly shocking. Brilliant work.
12. Excellent innovative performance last night!
13. I really enjoyed the Merchant of Venice at the Barn Theatre last week. All the acting, costumes and set were (unsurprisingly) excellent but, I was unexpectedly fascinated by the very creative staging of this play. Director Sam Razavi was wonderfully imaginative in making this story so contemporary. The Reality TV show was a brilliant idea and was well acted by everyone involved. I also liked the images portrayed on the back screen throughout the play and most movingly at the end. I also liked the way the visually striking, slightly scary but accomplished narrators were portrayed as bird like gossips. I am still replaying other scenes in my head. I hope Sam gets proper recognition for his debut direction at the Wick and wish him and his team many congratulations.
14. The production was amazing. I thought it a great idea to intersperse contemporary scenes with events on stage. The acting was – as ever – excellent. Despite my back issues I very much enjoyed the production. I hope there’s a good turn out for today’s performance.