Gareth Armstrong and Guy Masterson take us behind the mask of Shakespeare’s Jew
This article is from 2011.
In a festival overflowing with one-actor shows, Gareth Armstrong’s Shylock, performed by Guy Masterson – a much-loved master of the Fringe monodrama – stands out as a work of real quality. The script, which is offered to us by the character of Tubal (Shylock’s Jewish friend in The Merchant of Venice), is a carefully considered combination of historical research and performed excerpts from both the Bard’s play and, its predecessor, Christopher Marlowe’s notorious drama The Jew of Malta.
Played in front of simple canvases which are covered with the word ‘Jew’ in various languages, the piece (which is also directed by Armstrong) is a powerful explanation of, and statement against, anti-Semitism. However, Masterson’s Tubal has such physicality, intellectual sophistication and bleak humour that the show is never in danger of toppling from theatre into lecture. Indeed, when the actor dons the hooked-nosed mask and ginger wig which characterised Jews on the Renaissance stage (as Judas was believed to have been red-haired), it is as shocking a moment of pure theatre as one is likely to experience at this year’s Fringe.
Assembly Hall, 623 3030, until 29 Aug (not 15), 3.45pm, £12.50–£14 (£11.50–£12).