The Merchant of Venice has had a long and varied performance history, with each production responding to the social and political values and contexts of the time in which it was performed. Attitudes towards the play have particularly shifted in the 20th century, and directors have responded in many ways, such as changing the ending of the play or setting it in different places.
Research TWO stage productions of The Merchant of Venice from anywhere in the world that interest you, and are different in their approaches to the play. Try to choose productions that occurred at different times throughout history.
Once you have your two productions, answer the following questions:
- When was the production staged and where?
- Who was the director and who were the main actors?
- Where was the production set? What time and what location?
- Would you consider it a modern production?
- What was the focus of the production? e.g. corporations, religious prejudice, comedy, feminism etc.
- What were the set and costumes like? Any other design features (ie. music/sound)?
- Did they adapt the story in any way?
- How was the production received by the public?
- How was the production received by reviewers? Can you find any reviews to quote?
- Was this production considered radical at the time?
- Without the benefit of seeing the production, what are your thoughts on the director’s choices?
- Can you find images from this production? Include them in your research report, if possible.
Review, compare and share
- Once you have gathered your information do a quick comparison of the two productions you have chosen. How are they different and why?
- Now get into pairs with another student and share the materials you have gathered. Does your partner have a similar of different response to the plays you have chosen?
Choose one of your productions. Write a short 200-word theatre review or blog on the production as if you were a journalist at the time. Include production images where possible.