Trafalgar studios

RSC’s Merchant of Venice is full of puzzling ornaments and accents

The BBC announces Merchant of Venice as if it were a Hollywood blockbuster. ‘In the melting pot of Venice, trade is God.’ The RSC, which staged the show in 2015, calls it ‘a thrilling, contemporary interpretation’. Each element in Polly Findlay’s production looks fine. Jacob Fortune-Lloyd and Patsy Ferran (Bassanio and Portia) are as cute as a pair of Love Island hotties. But the costumes are hard to decipher and they seem attached to no particular era. Most of the characters wear chic, well-tailored outfits except for Antonio (Jamie Ballard) who sports a T-shirt and seems close to tears most of the time. He and Bassanio are presented as openly

A mesmerising piece of theatre: On Blueberry Hill reviewed

On Blueberry Hill sounds like a musical but it’s a sombre prison drama set in Ireland. Two bunkbeds. Above, an older man, Christy. Below, his younger companion, PJ. They take turns to talk, and gradually they reveal how their lives are interwoven. These are men of unusual intelligence and articulacy, and both are so profoundly in love with life’s simplest joys that their incarceration seems barely credible. Each might be a professor of literature or philosophy. During his boyhood, PJ tells us, he once worked as a golf caddy for a movie actor who shot a perfect round. It made him more happy than anything he had ever done. He

‘Irish writers don’t talk to each other unless they’re shouting abuse’: Sebastian Barry interviewed

Sebastian Barry, Irish literary Laureate, is in London to promote his first play in a decade. He didn’t plan on leaving it so long, he insists; it’s just that finishing the play — On Blueberry Hill — took longer than he’d planned. How long? Most of the decade, he confesses. At one point progress was so slow that he wrote to his agent and offered to pay back the advance. ‘God knows, money is tight enough already in theatre without me taking it for not writing a play,’ he says. In his defence, Barry has been rather busy, publishing no fewer than three novels (including the Costa prize-winning Days Without