Merchant a Winner In the UK


Theatre for a New Audience’s production of The Merchant of Venice had a remarkable reception from English theatre critics and audiences over its twelve performances at the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon. Theatre for a New Audience was the final visiting company performing in the RSC’s Complete Works Festival, which ended its year-long run this March. Theatre companies from all over the world came to Stratford, and Theatre for a New Audience was honored to be invited. The Theatre is now the only American company to have been invited to perform Shakespeare at the RSC twice.After receiving much acclaim from New York audiences, the response from British audiences and press was hard to predict. Happily, the UK press was as enthusiastic as the New York press. The Guardian gave our production 4 out of 5 stars. The Independent described it as: “An admirable import to round off the international programming in the RSC’s Complete Works Festival. Shame it couldn’t stay longer.” Inspired by the production, we received many letters from audience members who found the work deeply moving.

For F. Murray Abraham and the cast, performing Merchant at the RSC’s Swan Theatre, a beautiful theatre designed specifically for classic drama, was a high point in their careers. The company had two and half days of rehearsal before opening at the RSC. Darko Tresnjak, the production’s director, did some minor restaging, but most of the time was spent on helping the acting company adjust to playing in the larger Swan Theatre, which seats 499, whereas the Duke Theatre, where Merchant played in New York, seats 199. One Board Member who participated in the RSC trip organized by TFANA shared his reaction after seeing our cast receive a hearty ovation the night he attended. He explained that visiting the RSC had long been on his dream “to do” list, and witnessing a wonderful moment in the Theatre’s history, for him, surpassed his expectations.