A funny, passionate take on Shakespeare's classic

theatre review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
Published 05 Aug 2011

Guy Masterson has made his name presenting high-quality one-man shows internationally and on the Fringe and this production is nothing less than you would expect from a performer of his experience and expertise.

The play sees Masterson take on the role of Tubal, friend to Shylock in The Merchant of Venice and the only other Jew in the Shakespearean canon. This set up, which enables Masterson to comment on the play from the fringes of the action, works very neatly, and the actor builds up a real personality for a character who has only eight lines in the original drama. Alongside the textual analysis and dramatic set pieces runs some absorbing material relating to the persecution of the Jews throughout history and the logistics of Shakespeare's company at the Globe. Some of these stories might come across as dry in less capable hands, but Masterson keeps the audience engaged and weaves the show's several strands together to make a persuasive and theatrical piece of work that also offers plenty of laughs. 

Shylock is not without its flaws. Writer and director Gareth Armstrong's script repeats itself in places, and the show could do with losing 10 minutes in the middle where Masterson spends too long describing notable Shylock performances through history. The actor's boundless energy could also do with being reined in at times, his passionate characterisations sometimes edging into overacting. That said, this is a hugely likeable performance from an accomplished actor and an excellent example of that Fringe favourite: the one-person play.