The Raw Shakespeare Project
Until 22 Nov 2019

Review by Fran Edwards

Well, it was Shakespeare and it was a little raw, but a good effort by this company dedicated to bringing the works of the Bard to life with passion and cheekiness. The script is a mash-up of “The Merchant of Venice” and “The Merry Wives of Windsor” – although the props were the wrong ones; someone brought the props from the previous production, “Treasure Island” – but they muddled through. Seriously, though, the props matter very little if the actors can carry it off. Mostly they did carry it well.

Starting with the except from “Merchant”, Damien white introduced himself as Falstaff, the Master of Ceremonies – and yes, I know he is not in that play but we allow them some license. Antonia (formerly Antonio) played by Myf Davis characterized quite well but both she, and Christopher Braydon as Bassanio, need to slow their dialogue and watch the pronunciation.

Jabez Retallick gave a great foppish performance as Aragon and Maxine Elizabeth made a fine Nerissa, but Nicole Richardson as Portia failed to give her character the strength needed so the famous ‘Mercy’ speech lacked the passion it required. I understand the wish to avoid the anti-Semitism of the original, but it is a play of its time and changing the motive for revenge lessens its impact.

After the interval the Wives took over. Shannon Gray as Mistress Page plotted with Mistress Ford (Bianca Vanderberg) to hoodwink Falstaff and fool Master Ford. All four made the most of the comedy and worked well together. Some in-depth study of the text might uncover some nuances they seem to be missing but they were funny and cheeky. This was the better received of the two pieces but kudos must be given for performing in an unusual space not necessarily equipped for theatre – but then Will did it all the time!