Freelance journalist with a passion for theatre, the arts, food and books.
Review of GB Theatre Company's latest tour production
According to Shakespeare "all the world's a stage", so with that in mind, this performance of The Merchant of Venice was taken outdoors to one of the most beautiful parts of the writer's world.
Former Hollyoaks star Matt Milburn performs with GB Theatre Company's UK tour Source: GB Theatre Company
The UK tour stopped off in the beautiful landscaped grounds of historic Warwick Castle - just a few miles away from the bard's home in Stratford upon Avon – where the GB Theatre Company used the bushes and trees as their backdrop.
And despite competing against the background noise of squawking peacocks and overhead airplanes, it did not detract from this passionate and traditional performance.
The strong cast, including Matt Milburn (formerly Joe Spencer in Channel 4's Hollyoaks) did not need the usual extra stage sets and lighting to beguile the audience.
Actor Derek Howard was intense and grave as embittered money-lender Shylock, but earned plenty of compassion for the character, particularly during his finest moment when giving the "if you prick us, do we not bleed" soliloquy on the similarity betweens Jews and Christians.
It helps that the pace was fast, weaving effortlessly between the grim drama of Jewish Shylock's misguided act of revenge, to seek a pound of flesh from a Christian businessman who cannot repay his loan, and the humour of beautiful Portia's complicated love life.
Laura Matthews, playing Portia (who recently starred in the National Theatre's performance of One Man, Two Guvnors at the Theatre Royal Haymarket) and Rosalind Steele as her maid Nerissa were both exceptional, bringing a sense of fun and modernity to the proceedings.
Constantly entertaining and with a depth that commanded your full attention, this two and a half hour performance was special enough even without the breathtaking surroundings.
The tour continues at Askham Bryan College, in York, from August 18 to 20, and Arundel Castle, in West Sussex, from August 22 to 24.
I saw this and totally disagree! Did anyone see The Tempest last year directed by Jack Shepherd? That was brilliant. This was amateurish in comparison. Seriously - can anyone explain the opening? Only Shylock was good. And the costumes. Seriously put off outdoor theater. And expensive as well on top of an already expensive day at Warwick Castle. Proves that if the beginning is bad it will put you off the rest. I couldn't get over my bad mood after that opening. Please, please explain GB Theater Company.