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Stage Stars Show Shakespeare

"The Merchant of Venice" performed by Actors from the London Stage was simply Shakespeare yet so much more.

Actors From The London Stage

With a suitcase of props, a table and several chairs, the story of Portia, Antonio and Bassanio came alive. The performance was delightful and hilarious with the actors continuously switching back and forth between several characters, often leaving an invisible character in the middle of the stage.

The audience was laughing and cringing at different parts throughout the play, while the actors added their own bits of humor and horror to their characters without changing the script. Even audience members who brought with them a distaste for Shakespeare left the theater with a feeling of excitement and delight for the performance.

The different characters came alive with the simple change of single props. Isabel Pollen brought Portia alive with a simple strand of beads and presented the character of the Jailer with a simple length of chain. Gregory Cox brought Lancelot Gobbo alive with a simple beret and crooked face, and Gratiano came through with the flip of a pair of sunglasses. Tim Hardy brought the crazy, blind Old Gobbo to life with a simple ensemble of sunglasses, a jacket and an old bag and portrayed the mean-hearted Shylock with a Jewish kipa on his head. Louise Yates portrayed Nerrisa and Jessica with different scarves around her waist and arms, while Salerio and Stephano brought out the masculine side of her acting with a simple hat and sunglasses. Christopher Staines stole a portion of the show with the hilarious, yet small role, of Prince Arragon brought alive with a rather feminine wig while the Prince of Morocco donned a richly colored sash across his chest.

There is a "simplicity about it," said one actor, in regards to this work by Shakespeare. The performances these actors take around the country are very similar to what Shakespeare first did. "There weren't lavish sets then," said Tim Hardy. However, the performance was nothing short of spectacular.

The play was performed using the original language of Shakespeare and was a little overwhelming when trying to understand every word. "Don't worry about the words you don't understand," said Hardy. The facial expressions, movement and excellent acting added intensity and excitement to even the most difficult parts of the script.

This is the fourth time the Actors From The London Stage has been on the Berea College Campus. The five professional actors were on campus for a week-long residency speaking to the campus and larger community about the work they do, how they approach performance and offered instruction in a variety of performance areas.

In its 30th year, the Actors From The London Stage is one of the oldest touring Shakespeare theatre companies in the world. The program was founded by world-renowned actor Patrick Stewart and developed by Professor Homer Swander at the University of California-Santa Barbara. Visits to American colleges and universities are booked through the assistance of the Marie P. DeBartolo Center For The Performing Arts at the University of Notre Dame. Representing such prestigious performing companies as the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Royal National Theatre of Great Britain, and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, the performers are committed to teaching, accessibility to, and interaction with, students.

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