Latest news on our next production
We are currently raising funds for a production - a six-actor modern dress, #brandnew version of #TheMerchantofVenice, adapted and directed by #BillAlexander at The Playground Theatre, Latimer Road, London W10 6RQ. The show is scheduled for the last three weeks of September 2020 and Bill is calling it 'A Merchant of Venice.'
Bill on The Merchant of Venice:
The play begins with an expression of bewilderment. The merchant of the title confesses to a couple of acquaintances that he is at a loss to explain his current state of melancholy. His name is Antonio and this is his story.
In sooth, I know not why I am so sad.
The most significant parts of The Merchant of Venice attempt to find the answer.
Is it because the man he loves has time and time again used the potency of his love to fleece him of virtually all the money he has leaving him on the brink of poverty and disgrace? Or is it because in a last desperate attempt to rescue his financial situation he has gambled all he has left on a risky maritime commercial venture?
There is a third possibility: the man he loves is still begging money despite knowing his situation and to twist the knife, he asks for that money in order to pursue marriage to a wealthy woman.
The glimmer of hope that this young lover offers is that, if successful, he will be able to repay Antonio the money he owes. But the final and most bitter twist is that the money must be borrowed, and the only lender in Venice willing to help is his age old enemy - Shylock the Jew.
The production will explore the relationship between these two powerful and respected leaders of the Christian and Jewish communities and the small group around them. It will bring to life issues concerning the relationship between Love and Money, between Love and Friendship, between Love and Race and between Love and Class. Where do class and race hatred begin? Is it through the vulnerability caused by the corrosive effects of fear and the absence of genuine love? Or is it as my grandmother used to say, that money is the root of all evil?
I have directed this play many times but never before prepared for it with such excitement and the sense of the profound relevance it has to our own twisted times.
It is true to say that without Italy there would be no Shakespeare.The stories of ancient Rome came down to him through the works of Plutarch, Seneca and their contemporaries and adaptations from medieval Italian literature. His comedies and tragedies were inspired and adapted directly from great Italian writers like Boccaccio, Ser Giovanni and Bandello.
Dedicated to focusing initially on the five plays set exclusively in Renaissance Italy ( The Merchant of Venice, Romeo and Juliet, The Taming of the Shrew, Much Ado About Nothing and The Two Gentlemen of Verona ), we have forged a relationship with the Goldoni Theatre in Venice and other theatres in north and central Italy. The culture and politics of the country had a profound effect on Shakespeare's drama and part of our focus will be to explore the nature of that influence by playing in both countries and building cultural links between Great Britain and Italy.
Shakespeare in Italy is seeking investors for a three year span of productions via a government run scheme called Social Investment Tax Relief.
Production related workshops - Aliens Order
In the summer of 2017, we developed a project in Peterborough called ‘Alien's Order’ linked to themes from ‘The Merchant of Venice’. It was made possible following our successful application to the Arts Council for our first grant. The central idea was the experience of migrant Italians living in the UK after WW2, many of whom had to register for an identification card called Alien's Order. Portia refers to the word in the court scene saying “if it be proved against an alien”.
We held workshops involving people of all ages at an Italian community centre, in primary schools, at the City Museum and with a language school. A local writer produced six short pieces of pop up street theatre which were staged at the two-day open air Italian festival in the city centre. We partnered with local organisations including Metal, who champion the need for investment in artistic innovation and provide practical support to practising artists.
Workshops will be offered to schools, colleges and community groups.
Our workshops will explore, amongst other things, universal themes such as race in ‘Othello’, race and religion in ‘The Merchant of Venice’, gender politics in ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ and family strife in ‘Romeo and Juliet.
They will also be linked to current productions.
For more information on our workshop programme for schools, go to Education and communities, go to Reach Out.
The company founders have presented Shakespeare recitals in the UK and Italy.
They gave a recital for the opening of Cartoleria 18, a new mental health project in Bologna. https://www.cartoleria18.it/wp/
It was also presented in the Comandini Theatre in Cesena, as part of the 7th Mantica Festival of Theatrical Research and Development, and at the Ducal Summer Festival in Urbino.
In 2017 we ran community workshops at the Electric Palace Cinema in the Old Town in Hastings. The aim of the work was to focus on relevant issues e.g. women in society, greed, ambition. Each person took a line in the scene, discussed the meaning of it and the scene was then cast gender blind and performed for the group. We worked on excerpts from Macbeth, As You Like It, King John, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Twelfth Night, Othello and Romeo and Juliet.