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Shylock

Gareth Armstrong
Guy Masterson / Theatre Tours International

When you see that Guy Masterson is appearing in the one-man play Shylock, the immediate reaction is that he is playing the eponymous character. That reaction is wrong, however, for, although the play is about Shylock, Masterson's character is Tubal who is Shyock's friend in The Merchant of Venice and who has, as he tells us frequently, just eight lines.

The play looks at Shylock and his standing up for his pound of flesh and, through him and performances of Merchant, traces the perception of the Jew through the ages until Shakespeare's time. Because of this, Masterson gets to play numerous parts, including Marlowe's Jew of Malta, Barabas, as well as Portia and others.

Those who have seen his other one-man performances, such as Animal Farm and Under Milk Wood, will be aware of his easy rapport with the audience and the physicality which allows him to transform his body into the character he is playing. They will not be disappointed here, for both are very much in evidence.

Shylock delivers a serious message but with a light touch and Tubal's good humour and ready smile draw the audience in. They warm to him and feel for Shylock, his friend.

With 20 years of experience in one-man shows, performing himself and directing others, Masterson knows exactly what works and what doesn't and this production shows yet again his mastery of the genre.

Reviewer: Peter Lathan