OK, first off, what is Shylock like in your opinion?
Shylock is a Jewish man living in a Christian world where he is given no respect for his profession, his religion or traditions.
Do you think Shylock is a villain who is just out for revenge, or a victim of anti-Semitism?
Shylock certainly has villainous intentions—he wants to murder someone because that someone owes him money. It is his way of getting revenge on the society that has marginalized him. But it is his Jewness which makes people despise him, so in that sense he is a victim of anti-Semitism.
What is Tubal like?
We know so little about Tubal from Shakespeare’s text. Only that he is also a Jew, wealthy, and a moneylender.
Tubal has only eight lines in The Merchant of Venice. From what sources do you derive help to develop the character of Tubal for impersonation?
Much of the Tubal in my play is invented. I make him an “everyman” character who represents his race and can speak for his friend, Shylock. He is also a comic storyteller, so I use him to amuse the audience as well.
How is Tubal crucial to Shylock?
He is Shylock’s only friend, and the only other Jewish man in all of Shakespeare. The only man who really talks “to” Shylock and not “at” him. In my play, he gives Shylock’s point of view of the whole situation.
Some plays that draw inspiration from The Merchant of Venice do away with Tubal altogether. What do you think Shylock would be without him?
The play would be poorer without Tubal, and for very practical reasons. He brings crucial information to Shylock. Without him, Shylock would be even more isolated than he is, which would change the balance of the play quite crucially.
What are the obstacles you’ve faced when recreating a play from the viewpoint of a minor character?
You have to be more inventive than with a major character, but you can speculate and have more fun with a character that has so little to say in Shakespeare’s original play.
By recreating an entire play from the perspective of a trivial character, you’ve given the limelight to someone most people would have neglected. How do you think this will change the way the audience interprets a play?
I hope people will find it an original and entertaining approach. Most people identify with the “little guy” and he makes a good guide through the evening. People may not change their mind about Shylock and The Merchant of Venice but at least they will be stimulated to think about it.
Well, what is your opinion towards the continuous conflicts between the Jews and the Christians in Israel?
It is a tragedy, like all such conflicts. When I performed this play in Israel, many of my Jewish audience drew the parallel between Shylock’s demonisation and the plight of their Palestinian neighbors.
Any hopes for Shylock?
After Singapore, the play goes on to Aspen, Colarado (so I’ll need a big change of wardrobe), then on to the Bermuda Festival (so the shorts can come back out!). Then I will tour the UK in spring. Last year, a book I wrote about my journeys with the play was published (A Case For Shylock—Around The World With Shakespeare’s Jew) and now I am working on the sequel. I’m looking forward to writing the chapter on my experiences in Singapore!