The Merchant of Vembley, Cockpit Theatre, review: ‘Enlightening and riotous’

Emilio Doorgasingh (Sharuk) in The Merchant of Vembley. Picture: Shyamantha Asokan

Emilio Doorgasingh (Sharuk) in The Merchant of Vembley. Picture: Shyamantha Asokan - Credit: Archant

This relocated Merchant of Venice is full of joy and insight, says Aline Waites.

Based on The Merchant of Venice Shishir Kurup’s play in suitable iambic pentameters has been relocated to Wembley’s Hindu community with remarkable success.

Jeetendra a Bollywood Star wants to marry his producer’s daughter Pushpa who has been left an enormous fortune by her late father. Although she has resisted arranged marriage she is respecting his wishes to marry the man who will correctly chose one of three boxes

Jeetendra’s friend Davendra will back his new film but must borrow the money as his ships have yet to come in. His businesses are doing well but he cannot put his hands on the cash. So he goes to Sharuk – a Muslim money lender who has just lost his beautiful daughter Noori when she eloped with an African. He is disgusted when he learns she has doffed her traditional dress in favour of a pink wig, fishnets and a miniskirt.

Sharuk makes Davendra sign a contract saying that if he cannot pay the money back he will forfeit a pound of flesh not from his heart but from a more intimate body part – making him unable to father non Muslims.

The title sounds like a comedy and indeed the first act is full of riotous humour. The drama lies in the second act and illustrates the hatred of Sharuk the Muslim and his desire for what he thinks of righteous revenge. As a minority group he says the more they were denigrated, the more extreme would be the vengeance.

The surprise of the evening is an enlightening, heartbreaking speech by Kavita, Pushpa’s friend arguing for greater understanding between genders and religions, and espousing the Hindu faith’s tenet of unconditional compassion.

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Rating: 4/5 stars