After a successful run on Broadway, the Shakespeare masterpiece “Merchant of Venice” will cross the Atlantic for its West End re-mounting, and this time, legendary actor Al Pacino, who plays Shylock in the play, will be part of the package.
Although specific details still have to be ironed out, the West End transfer of “Venice” led by British producer Cameron Mackintosh, is almost certain by summer of next year, according to an insider from the Public Theatre where the play is currently running for an extended stretch. “We’re hopeful that following the extension, Al and most of the cast will be in London in the second half of 2011. There’s a degree of apprehension how any American production of a Shakespeare play will be greeted in London. But this is a classical production and we think it will work well,” the insider adds.
Although British theatre patrons tend to snob American theatre pieces especially their takes on Shakespearean works such as “Venice”, critics who have seen the Pacino-led Broadway run are giving it a two thumbs up and are confident that the American production can equal, if not surpass, previous productions of the play, both American and British. One of the most notable reviews came from theatre critic heavyweight Ben Brantley from The New York Times who writes the current “Venice” mounting as a show that “gives the lie to theatre snobs who insist that only the British can do Shakespeare properly”, and even goes on to acclaim Pacino and Lily Rabe’s (Portia) performance as this season’s best. The Hollywood Reporter on the other hand describes it as an “uncommonly satisfying production of one of Shakespeare’s more difficult plays”.
And while the rest of this season’s Broadway shows continue to suffer from the ill effects of the unpredictable weather, “Venice”, as well as “Driving Miss Daisy” starring Vanessa Redgrave are both spared from the curse of the weather as both plays continue to dominate this season’s box office receipts.
As for Pacino’s decision to be onboard for the move, he might have been motivated to accept the West End offer when a clear cut transfer plan across the pond was laid out to him, not to mention, when he saw the success of the Broadway run which opened the possibility of duplicating the success in its English theatre strip counterpart. “It was up in the air for a while whether Al Pacino would agree to transfer but it now seems he wants to do it,” the Public Theatre insider said.
Pacino’s last stint at the popular English theatre district was way back in 1984 for “American Buffalo” by David Mamet.