The Merchant of Venice: a conversation with Rachel Pickup and Dorothea Myer-Bennet

Lucia: Jonathan told us that tonight is going be the last show.

Rachel: Yes: We have done 103 shows including last year. This year we have done 71 shows.

Dorothea: We’ve been in London, Liverpool, China and in America..

Leaticia: Do you have different feelings performing the same play in different places?

Rachel: Yes, definitely. Our audience is so different. We’ve done two shows here. And it’s only after you’ve done about three or four shows that you start to get used to an audience. Tonight we’re going to get in the measure of the Italian audience. But it’s massively different from London, much more reserved.

Dorothea: The first play in a new place is always surprising. You never know how it’s gonna be.

Dorothea Myer-Bennet

Rachel: What’s your perception? Do you share that feeling that Venetians or Italians are reserved?

Lucia: Yes, we usually sit there and just watch. We see that you want a response from the public.

Dorothea: So it’s not normal for you to get so closed to the actors.

Lucia: No, but it was great.

Rachel: Do you normally want to be removed from the stage?

Lucia: We don’t want to be detached from the play, but we are just used to it.

Dorothea: We didn’t know, we had no idea, but we felt the difference. The Globe is the complete opposite, you can see every face, people can touch your feet, they love to make noise.

Rachel: And in China, people grabbed us to take selfies.

Rachel Pickup

Elena: Is it a sort of feminist play?

Dorothea: Portia is a strong woman. She pretends to have a penis and she’s a wonderful person.

Rachel: She is courageous, smart and brave. It’s also frightening that the play is so relevant for our times. People are so comfortable now being opened about their racism.

Dorothea: Yes, people have been given a voice now. They can be proud of it.

Pietro: How did you approach your characters?

Rachel: We have kept the text quite near to the original. Jonathan is really keen in observing the text.

Dorothea: In this play, all the characters are ugly, and it’s way to humanize everybody.

Rachel: The world we are living in is quite ugly too.

Dorothea: In China the students are just told what to think. Portia is the good, Shylock is the villain. But coming to see the play, they were able to notice many more shades of the story. 


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