"the rich Jew, and Father to Jessica"
Shylock's malevolence toward the merchant Antonio is so great that he determines to collect "a pound of flesh" in forfeit for his bond. Shylock's daughter Jessica elopes, taking some of his money with her; he is as alarmed at the theft of his ducats as with her disappearance.
Henry Goodman won the Olivier Award for his performance as Shylock. He shares director Trevor Nunn's non-judgmental vision: "Many people think this play shouldn't be done. They say that as a Jewish actor, it is appalling that I allow myself to perpetuate this cliché. There is certainly a danger of carrying on the demonology, but I say to those people 'come and see our production.' We try to inhabit the play in a way that is fresh and true. We've found a better balance in it.
"We try to show why Shylock is pushed to the limit by the racism of society. Where are the trigger points when anger turns him? The play is full of greys rather than blacks and whites. It is not a picture of pure goodies and baddies. The Christians mock Shylock, but they also realise when they've gone too far. The play is about a clash of beliefs, as opposed to a clash of good and evil. Shylock is a religious man, and the morality he believes in isn't necessarily better than anything else. Yet he has to believe that it is in order to maintain his faith. That's both his doing and his undoing."
"a Merchant of Venice"
A Christian merchant and nobleman, Antonio strikes a deal with Shylock on behalf of his friend Bassanio.
Actor David Bamber trained at Bristol University and, later, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where he was awarded the Gold Medal in 1979. A versatile performer, Bamber has worked extensively in theatre, film, television, and radio. He received an Olivier Award for Best Actor for his role as Roger Michell in My Night with Reg at the Royal Court & Criterion Theatres. He has previously appeared on Masterpiece Theatre as Dr. Forrest in The Railway Children (2000) and as P. Frobisher Pilbeam in Heavy Weather (1996). American audiences may also recognize him from the BBC mini-series Pride and Prejudice (1995).
"an Italian Lord, Suitor ... to Portia"
Bassanio is Antonio's friend, a bold adventurer who borrows money in order to woo his love, Portia.
Alexander Hanson studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. A veteran of stage, screen, and radio, Hanson is fluent in Norwegian, sings baritone and tenor, and is skilled at boxing, cricket, and squash.
"the rich Italian Lady"
A rich heiress who bemoans the edict of her late father, but acquiesces to his wishes that she marry the man who can correctly solve a puzzle: The will of a living daughter [is] curbed by the will of a dead father..." (Act 1, Sc. 2). In disguise, the resourceful Portia defends Antonio against Shylock's demand for "a pound of flesh."
Derbhle (pronounced "Dervla") Crotty (Portia) graduated in Law from University College Dublin, and was awarded a Diploma in Drama Studies at the Samuel Beckett Centre. She has performed extensively with both the Royal National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company, and has made several appearances on television and radio in addition to her stage work.
"Gentlemen of Venice, and companions with Bassanio"
Fashionable men of the Venetian Rialto, friends of Antonio and Bassanio
Peter De Jersey acts on stage and screen, appearing most recently with the Royal National Theatre. Masterpiece Theatre viewers may recognize him as Mike in The Choir (1995). He is a skilled musician, athlete, and painter.
Mark Umbers may be familiar to Masterpiece Theatre viewers: He played Elliot in The Prince of Hearts (1998). He has graced the small screen in a number of other British television productions and has performed on stage with the Royal National Theatre company, among others.
Jack James has performed with the Royal National Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company, and has made several television and film appearances. He portrayed Lt. Graves in Hedd Wyn, a Welsh film which received a 1994 Royal Television Society Award and an Oscar nomination as Best Foreign Language Film.
Richard Henders has appeared on television in Can You Hear Me Thinking, Oranges are not the Only Fruit and The Chronicles of Narnia as well as an episode of Cadfael. His stage credits include the Royal National Theatre's Mobile Production of Aristophanes' Frogs and the musical The Official Tribute to The Blues Brothers.
Nerissa is Portia's main and friend. She is courted by Gratiano and later, poses as 'Balthazar's' (Portia's) clerk.
Alex Kelly has appeared in numerous stage, film, and television productions, including the 2001 teleplay The Mayor of Casterbridge. She sings, does impersonations, and paints.
"Daughter to Shylock"
Shylock's explosiveness gives credence to Jessica's allegation, "Our house is hell..." (Act 2, Sc. 3). Jessica abandons her father but in doing so is cut off from her beliefs and culture. Notwithstanding her relationship with Gratiano, she remains an outsider who, at the end of the production, movingly mourns her losses.
Gabrielle Jourdan is no stranger to television or stage, having played Jemma in the BBC miniseries Holding On, and frequently performing with the Royal National Theatre. She swims, skies and plays tennis.
"a Jew, Shylock's friend"
Laurence Werber has appeared in stage productions throughout England and works occasionally in film and television. He enjoys rugby, shooting, skiing, and squash.
The Prince of Morocco
"a Prince, and a Suitor to Portia"
The Prince of Morocco chooses the golden casket in his pursuit of Portia.
Chu Omambala has primarily appeared on stage, where he has performed with the Royal National Theatre, among other theatrical companies. Omambala is well-trained in stage combat, and plays cricket, soccer, rugby, and tennis.
The Prince of Arragon
"Suitor also to Portia"
The Prince of Arragon chooses the silver casket in an attempt to win Portia's hand.
Raymond Coulthard has appeared on stage and in television, and in films, including Emma (as Frank Churchill), The English Patient (as Rupert Douglas) and A Muppet Christmas Carol (as the Young Scrooge). Coulthard is an adept tap dancer, juggler and mime, and talented in fencing.
Gobbo is a servant to Shylock who defects to Bassanio's service.
Andrew French is a multi-faceted performer who portrayed Gratiano in the Shakespeare Globe Theatre's 1998 production of The Merchant of Venice. He has both television and film credits; American audiences may recognize him in The Tailor of Panama.
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