fixture Guy Masterson celebrates his eighteenth
successive Edinburgh (and his fiftieth birthday) by
performing solo in a show he first presented in
like John Gross’s magnificent book of the same title,
Gareth Armstrong’s text is a guide to Shylock through
history and performance traditions, but slyly recounted by
Shylock’s only friend, and the only other Jew in
Shakespeare, Tubal, “a wealthy Hebrew of my
has eight lines in The Merchant of
Venice, whereas Shylock, Masterson reminds us,
is as big a Jewish deal as Moses or Barbra Streisand.
Standing in the shadows of this character – variously seen
as a monster, a religious victim, villain and devoted
father, and one of the great tragic roles –
Tubal/Masterson can put him in context, discuss the
challenges and rewards of playing him.
the way, we have a pocket digest of the play itself, its
most famous speeches, as well as the trial scene and the
dying fall in Belmont. The Jews were expelled from England
long before Shakespeare wrote the play, so it’s
fascinating to see how he melds the bogeyman status of the
mercantile Jew (though of course the title refers to
Antonio) with his own humaneness.
discharges it all with trademark flair and bullishness,
and the audience responds with as much appreciation as
long held affection.