Shakespeare at Drum Castle

We saw the Merchant of Venice at Drum Castle last night by Illyria. It was brilliant and the acting was superb. The cast of just five meant they all played several roles and the changing of costumes and accents was flawless.

We saw them once before with A Midsummer Night’s Dream and as then, we feared the kids would get bored or it would pour with rain or the midges would bite. It did rain but only very slightly and not enough to dampen our enjoyment (see what I did there?). The kids enjoyed it also and Daniel asked us afterwards whether we’ll go to the next performance.

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There was something a bit pantomimey about it with men dressing up as women and women dressing up as men. I suppose that was a great tradition when Shakespeare lived. They even threw in a Donald Trump joke which went down very well because he’s universally disliked here. Ben gave us all a brief explanation of the plot on the way there which was very helpful. If you go to see it and are not familiar with the play then I recommend reading the Wikipedia page for a summary first. This play is the origin of the phrase, pound of flesh.

I felt very sorry for the Jew, Shylock, at the end. Even though he was not a kind man I felt he was treated unfairly. Did Shakespeare want us to feel sorry for him? Was he trying to demonstrate the prejudice against Jews at that time or was he just appealing to the general feeling of the masses? I also wondered why Portia didn’t just tell Bassanio which box to choose.

It’s much easier to follow Shakespeare when it’s brought to life by a very talented group of actors and you can watch it live next to a 14th century castle. Illyria will be back at Drum Castle on the 24th August with The Pirates of Penzance.

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