Shylock has always divided opinion. Is he a villain or a victim? Or is he someone even more intriguing.
There is no doubt Shylock is hard done by in “The Merchant of Venice“, but does he bring it on himself? As one of only two Jewish men in the whole of Shakespeare, he has been portrayed in ways which reflected how Jews were popularly viewed – from comic villain in Shakespeare’s day to a victim of racial discrimination nowadays.
Guy Masterson is an Olivier Award winning producer, actor, director and writer. An entertainer for 30 years, he has worked on over 150 shows. He is one of the most highly awarded independent presenters at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival over twenty seasons. As a theatre director, he is responsible for several of its biggest ever hits. As an actor, he is globally renowned for his solo performances. He is also a successful director of corporate events, a playwright, dramaturgy and acting, voice and corporate coach.
Since graduating in Drama from Hull University, Gareth has combined the roles of actor and director throughout a career that has taken to him to over fifty countries. From an early association with Shakespeare through the National Youth Theatre his roles have ranged from Romeo to Richard III, and from Puck to Prospero. He has been a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company and worked at Shakespeare’s Globe and in the West End.
Gareth was a founder Director of the Made in Wales Stage Company, presenting new Anglo-Welsh plays, and was an Artistic Director of Cardiff’s Sherman Theatre where he directed classics, new plays and the modern repertoire. As a freelance he has directed in theatres all over Britain and has worked as a guest director in Europe and America. He was an Associate Artist at Salisbury Playhouse, and works as an Associate Director of the US based company, AFTLS, which tours and teaches in campuses across the States.
He performed in his own one-man show, Shylock, for ten years and the play, which has won several international awards, has been translated for the stage into Italian, Spanish, French, and Russian, filmed for Dutch television and broadcast on Romanian radio. He now specializes in directing other solo performers, and his book on the subject – How to do a Solo Show – has recently been published by Nick Hern Books, who also commissioned his first book, A Case for Shylock – Around the World with Shakespeare’s Jew which has a foreword by Judi Dench.
Guy Masterson arrives on stage not as Shylock, the Jewish moneylender in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, but his good friend Tubal. Herein lies the first of many surprises in this one-man play for lovers of history, language, politics, theatre, acting and Shakespeare.
Tubal has only eight lines in The Merchant of Venice. In this work he’s co-opted by Welsh playwright Gareth Armstrong into the role of observer, analysing Shylock’s function in the play, where he fits in the long history of anti-semitism, and how an actor can make him a figure of scorn or sympathy.
Masterson’s Tubal is humane, funny and, befitting his unique position, a touch world-weary. He plays several other characters with the help of a hat here or slouch there, rarely skipping a beat. It’s a lovely performance in a show with something for everyone.
Louise Nunn From: The Advertiser February 21, 2011
The graphic set of giant banners covered by the word ‘Jew’ in dozens of languages hints that this will be something more than an evening with a single character; and ‘Shylock certainly does not disappoint.
Writer/director Gareth Armstrong has created a performance vehicle that examines not just a character and its motivations but looks beyond to the treatment of the Jew in theatre and culture.
Guy Masterson commands the stage as master storyteller, impersonator and performer, delivering Armstrong’s lovingly crafted text with articulate panache. A bravura performance.
How lucky we are in Adelaide to have a Fringe that provides the framework for Guy Masterson (CIT) to present such exquisite gems.
Tony Busch – Adelaide Theatre Review
You don’t need ever to have seen Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice to enjoy Guy Masterson in Shylock. The actor who has performed in previous fringes in Under Milk Wood and Animal Farm is just as dynamic in this monologue written and directed by Gareth Armstrong.
Masterson plays Tubal, friend of Shylock in the famous play. Dressed in suitable Venetian or whatever attire, Tubal entwines the history of the performance of Shylock with the even older history of Jewry in Great Britain.
It is unlikely Shakespeare even met a Jew because they were banned – interesting stuff like that. Tubal recites Shylock’s famous lines in the play giving in brief the entire plot including the play’s origins.
Masterson creates the atmosphere of a full production, he singlehandedly does the dialogue of both Portia and Shylock in the climatic courtroom scene. He is no longer a young man yet he performs with impressive physicality and with dancing magical gestures.
There is so much fascinating information that the show has an intermission, but never a dull moment. Put together a few shekels for this one.
David Grybowski – Barefoot Review Adelaide
“A perfect performance” – London theatre guide
“This is as good as theatre gets. Undiluted joy and a privilege to watch.” – Liverpool Post
“An exceptional piece of theatre, everyone should see it” – Independent on Sunday
“Stands out as a work of real quality, with as shocking a moment of pure theatre as one is likely to experience” – The List
“Shylock gives us everything we want from theatre; an informative and thought provoking story, a solid hour of comedic entertainment and a stunning display of talent. As an example of what theatre strives to achieve this is a must see” – Fringe review
Link to promo: 3 minutes 36 seconds
The video is an interview with Guy Masterson(actor) with some excerpts from the play.