There’s a fascinating idea behind Gratiano.
Take one of the minor players from The Merchant of Venice, (the comedy sidekick who no-one quite remembers), transport him forward in time to 1940s Italy during the rise of Mussolini, and have him re-examine his role in the events of one of Shakespeare’s most enduring plays. A monologue, written and performed by Ross Ericson, this opening night show is somewhat marred by the fact that only a few people have actually turned out to see it – but it’s early days at the Fringe and there’s plenty of time for this to find the right audience. The play is beautifully scripted and gamely performed – and it offers views about fascism and racism that seem powerfully prescient given what’s happening in the world right now.
Ericson’s tale imagines the consequences of the original play’s events: something terrible has happened to Gratiano’s old friend, Bassanio. He’s been found murdered and the police are wondering if his former best friend might have been involved. Gratiano, of course, is quick to dispel such notions. After all, he and Bassanio parted ways years ago. So where’s the motive?
Spoken in contemporary language, this is compelling stuff and some passages – particularly the observations about the concentration camps spill over from prose into sheer poetry. Those who are looking to find a new approach to a time-honoured classic could do a lot worse than investigate this.