Clocking in at just over two hours, this BBC radio production of The Merchant of Venice flies by at a serious clip. On the plus side, there isn't much dead air, but on the minus, it takes away some of the drama by keeping the voice actors from incorporating pauses. The voice acting is mostly good, especially the actress voicing Portia, but it gets difficult to tell many of the characters apart. Unfortunately, the most memorable voices are also the most ludicrous and cartoonish. On the whole, however, the actors do their best under their constraints, and some very good work does shine through.
Listeners should be familiar with the play before listening to this, as it would be nearly impossible to follow without knowing what would be happening on stage. For fans of Shakespeare and this play in particular, this audio is a nice addition to your library, but it is no replacement for an actual performance.
Of course, the big question is how this performance treats Shylock, and it's a decent middle ground. Shylock isn't portrayed as a pure villain, but he also isn't portrayed as wholly sympathetic either. His exit is handled a little sloppily, giving the final act the play's trademark uncomfortableness, but it's certainly not the worst handling of Shylock out there.
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