Marianne Gunn

The Merchant of Venice

Glasgow Botanic Gardens

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Four stars

There are times when the glib adage "The Show Must Go On" simply just isn't the case.

For the Bard in the Botanics troupe on Saturday evening, the young players fought hard and fast with the elements and even made it to the interval but the cruel mistress that is Mother Nature had other ideas for the evening, as rain indeed stopped (the) play.

Having already missed one of its preview performances, Gordon Barr's interpretation of The Merchant of Venice has not had the most fortuitous of opening weekends.

The tale of familial betrayals and blatant anti-semitism has been updated to an early 20th century setting, and the pre-war songs that bookend the first half highlight the continued relevance of Shakespeare's exploration of inherited bigotry and the nature of true evil.

The quality that theatregoers have come to expect from the now well-established company was delivered as regular cast members were complemented by new blood from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland's BA Acting course (Stephen Redwood and Chloe-Ann Taylor).

Redwood gave a jaunty performance as turncoat Launcelot Gobbo and relied on the more camp elements of his physicality when double cast as Salerio; Taylor's loyal Nerissa injected humour into the first two casket scenes, while as a sexed-up Solanio she exuded the temptations of the most decadent age.

In sharp contrast, Kirk Bage's Shylock was a traditional interpretation: his performance, almost muted at times, was both subtle and effective and one which - crucially - managed to evoke empathy.

As Antonio, Alan Steele created an air of homo-eroticism in his various "business" dealings which added a certain frisson and, arguably, a very deliberate subtext.

Finally, Nicole Cooper and James Ronan delivered the pivotal roles of Portia and Bassanio: Cooper's comic timing in the lighter first half was spot on, while Ronan was in more contemplative and tortured form.

His additional star turns as the two unlucky suitors, although amusing, begged a question of artistic consistency, however: the Prince of Morocco spoke in Received Pronunciation while, interestingly, the other was a lisped-up, moustachioed caricature.

May it not continue to rain on their impressively put-together parade.