Orson Welles/Shylock (The Shylock Project) explores the life of Director/Writer/Producer/Genius/Diva and overall artist, Orson Welles. By drawing parallels between his life and Shakespeare‘s character from The Merchant of Venice, Shylock, we learn a bit about Welles’ love-hate relationship with Hollywood and insecurities as a filmmaker. Playing at the Factory Studio Theatre (125 Bathurst St) for this year’s Toronto Fringe Festival, this show gives you a sense of what the film industry is like through a theatrical lens.
As the ensemble recreates moments of Welles life through dialogues from interviews, films, and Shakespeare, this docu-fantasy radio play is ephemeral and dramatic. As the show progresses we learn that just like Shylock, Welles felt like the outsider. He believed he was a merchant in Venice (referring to Hollywood), but never the merchant OF Venice.
As the actors play many roles at different stages of Welles life, this show felt like a roller-coster ride. The show presented some of his most influential moments, and exposed the difficulty of creating media in the 20th century, egotistical nature of Hollywood and life-long dream of playing Shylock. I appreciated that they didn’t focus too much on his films, and rather on his internal creative processes.
From beginning to end, the show is very agitated and factual. The incorporation of masks, voice-overs and videos helped break the intensity and mood of each scene in a very artistic way. Through dynamic and entertaining transitions, each scene would escalate quickly and descend abruptly.
The one thing that I think didn’t suit the play was their pre-show. As I walked into the studio theatre, all the actors were pacing with scripts in their hands, which I thought would be relevant for the show. But it wasn’t. They waved at some audience members and asked the stage manager for the time. They later talked a bit about the nature of the show and their theatre company. I guess if there was any audience interaction during the show, then it wouldn’t have felt so out of place.
Overall, this show is a roller-coster worth riding. I left the theatre thinking about a time when film directors were pretty much celebrities, as the self-absorbed creative industries tend to be. The show also presents the inevitable doubt and vulnerability even great artists experience. Making it reliable and delicate. Movie and theatre buffs will chuckle with cultural references, and still be mesmerised with inventive story-telling techniques.
- Orson Welles/Shylock (The Shylock Project) will be playing at the Factory Theatre Studio (125 Bathurst St)
- Tickets are $10 at the door, $12 in advance. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Fringe Club at Honest Ed’s Alley, and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that late comers are never admitted.
Content Warnings: Orson Welles/Shylock contains mature language.
- Friday July 1st, 04:45 pm
- Sunday July 3rd, 08:15 pm
- Monday July 4th, 10:30 pm
- Wednesday July 6th, 12:00 pm
- Thursday July 7th, 04:00 pm
- Saturday July 9th, 07:30 pm
- Sunday July 10th 12:00 pm
Photo Credit: Joe Della Posta
In Photo: Matt Chiorini, Drew Gripe, Vincent Randazzo and Lexi Bedore.