Mardling the Bard, Norwich

CHRISTOPHER SMITH Stratford, London's Globe and Windsor's Garter Inn – forget them! Shakespeare gets a Norfolk makeover from Spin-Off Theatre.

CHRISTOPHER SMITH

Stratford, London's Globe and Windsor's Garter Inn – forget them!

Scholars think Shakespeare may have stopped over in Suffolk on his way north for the Scottish play in Edinburgh. But apparently he never got as far as Norwich. So Spin-Off Theatre set things right, Mardling the Bard in the setting of a Tudor merchant's house – the King of Hearts.

Eve Stebbing's idea is to take The Merchant of Venice, by the scruff of the neck in fact, and give it the broad Norfolk treatment.


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The players start with Cornettos for the City with the Canals, before dodging back and forth between Italy and East Anglia.

Paul Mills, Karen Singer and Beth Lewis take all the parts, with a mask, a scarf, a smile or a scowl to recreate their varying roles, and no scenery to get in the way on a bare stage. The great success comes with the trial scene, even if local dialect is all but dropped. Round and round go the actors, swapping parts to catch the confusions of the situation. And, at the end, the Bard's great ethical insight comes across as fresh, as vital and as challenging as ever.

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