Geoff Sirmai to play Shylock

August 4, 2020 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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Streamed Shakespeare has announced its newest production: The Merchant Of Venice.

Geoff Sirmai as “Shylock”

The cast includes theatre luminaries, including Haki Pepo Olu Crisden as Antonio, Geoff Sirmai as Shylock the Jewish money-lender and Jacqui Greenfield as Salarino.

Sirmai played the same role in a celebrated production directed by now hugely-popular young Australian theatre star Constantine Costi in 2012.

Of special interest is that Olu Crisden – the African American actor playing Antonio the Merchant (Shylock’s nemesis) – grew up in a Jewish African American ‘church’ that followed Jewish ritual, festivals – and more. He wore a yarmulke and went to Temple Beth El and still regards his upbringing as Jewish. The church, which has its headquarters in Belleville, Virginia,  describes itself as “the oldest African-American congregation in the United States that adheres to the tenets of Judaism. Its congregation subscribes to the belief in one God, love for all mankind and the Ten Commandments as the basis for ethical and moral living. It teaches that, among the descendants of the biblical Israelites, there are peoples of African descent and that Jesus was neither God nor the son of God, but rather a strict adherent to Judaism and a prophet sent by God.

Sirmai – who recently played the title role in Titus Andronicus, directed by Haki – said it was wonderful to meet and work with him and that playing opposite each other “subtly re-casts the famous racism of the world of the play!”

Greenfield has a long list of theatre credits and has already played 9 other roles in Streamed Shakespeare’s season since lockdown.

Haki Pepo Olu Crisden as “Antonio”

The production will be particularly topical as it will tackle contemporary questions of tolerance vs inclusion, revenge vs reconciliation, as seen through the lens of current events.

Director Ros Hicks said: “I think the one I keep coming back to is ‘I can easier teach twenty what were good to be done than to be one of the twenty to follow mine own teaching.” (Portia Act 1 Scene 2).

“I think it sums up our hypocrisy when we know what the better thing to do would be, but it is much harder to be the one humble enough actually to do it.”

The production will be a fully realized, theatrical performance as opposed to a staged, dramatic reading. The production season plays from Friday, August 21 at 11.45 am Saturday, August 22 at 7pm and Sunday 23 August at 2:00 pm. For the first time, schools will be able to access the live performance as an enrichment activity to deepen students’ understanding of the play.

Streamed Shakespeare’s artistic director Holly Champion, director Hicks, and members of the cast will also be available to answer questions about performance, Shakespeare, and related topics.

Streamed Shakespeare has performed 13 Shakespearean dramatic readings since its inception to an Australia-wide and international audience that recently topped the 40,000 mark. Those performances have evolved from simple streamed retellings to highly realized productions, including music, video backgrounds, animation, and visual effects.

To view previous live streams and register for a performance, visit: www.streamedshakespeare.com

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