When Shakespeare created Shylock in The Merchant of Venice he gave the theatre perhaps its most controversial character. The miser who seems to prefer his diamonds to his daughter and is prepared to kill to get his revenge is also a Jew. Over the centuries, Shylock has been protrayed by the finest actors of the day in many ways. More often than not, however, the interpretation would be a reflection of the times and the ways in which Jews were percieved in society. Shylock could be portrayed sensitively, compassionately but also caricatured á la Fagin in Oliver Twist. But Shylock refused to remain a caricature comic villain role and history gave the part many different and often disturbing dimensions.
There is one other Jewish man in the play, (indeed, in the whole of Shakespeare), Tubal, Shylock's only ally. His may be a minor role, but it is through his eyes Gareth Armstrong demonstrates how personalities and events have affected the modern perception of his infamous friend.
In his solo performance Gareth Armstrong conjures up the playwright, the players, the passions, and the prejudice in the 400 years of Shylock's turbulent life; from Pontius Pilate to Adolf Hitler, from Dracula to the Wandering Jew ... a kaleidoscope of real and legendary characters and throughout is the limitless richness of Shakespeare's language.
Shakespeare has taken Gareth Armstrong to over thirty countries worldwide as actor, director and teacher. Most recently he has played the title toles in Richard III and Macbeth as well as his highly acclaimed performances as Shylock in Salisbury Playhouse's The Merchant of Venice. He broadcasts regularly for the BBC and played Sean in the world's longest running radio series, The Archers.