Actors ranging in age from 13 to 82 are in rehearsals for the 2020 Shakespeare in the Park Whanganui production to be staged at Bason Botanic Gardens.

Next year's production of The Merchant of Venice will bring a little slice of 16th century Venice to Whanganui.

Arguably Shakespeare's darkest comedy, The Merchant of Venice explores issues of greed, religious persecution, revenge and sexism. These intense and still relevant themes attracted a large number of experienced thespians and relative newcomers to the auditions.

With the roles now cast, director Karen Craig has been working with the actors to bring the diverse range of characters that populate the show to life.


The Merchant of Venice is responsible for many famous lines that we still use today - 'the devil is in the details', 'a pound of flesh' and 'love is blind'. It also features one of Shakespeare's most famous villains, Shylock.

Some alterations have been made to the play for next year's production to better suit a modern audience. These include a slight shortening of the duration, the addition of some unwritten comic characters to add more opportunities for humour, and an altered ending.

Craig made the changes to "show this play using a 21st century lens of intolerance to blind fanaticism and the celebration of human differences proving that this play is not an anti-Semitic, racist play of its time but a forward-thinking, thoughtful presentation of our human commonalities".

The show is a community production . Some actors, such as Shylock actor Paul Lyons, have performed in dozens of Shakespeare productions. For others, it will be their first experience performing Shakespeare. The play is rich with a diverse range of characters including dynamic female leads, clueless ne'er do wells, foolhardy lovers and obstinate curmudgeons.

The outdoor setting has added challenges for the actors so many outdoor rehearsals lie ahead.

Shakespeare in the Park 2020 tickets will be on sale from November 18 from the Royal Wanganui Opera House. Show dates are Thursday to Saturday, February 27-29 evening, and Sunday, March 1, matinee. Tickets cost $10 children, $16 senior citizens and students, $26 adult.