Director Anne-Louise Sarks has reshaped Shakespeare’s dark comedy, The Merchant of Venice, for today’s audience.

Anne-Louise Sarks has acted in Shakespeare productions in the past but she has never directed one of his plays. So, when Peter Evans, Artistic Director of Bell Shakespeare, invited her to direct The Merchant of Venice, she was “really surprised”.

“Although I do direct classic plays, I often do renovations of them. I am interested in changing the perspective a little bit and refocussing on the women and it being quite free,” she explains.

Jessica Tovey, The Merchant of Venice Jessica Tovey is Portia in Bell Shakespeare’s  The Merchant of Venice. Photos: supplied.

Sarks’ productions include an award-winning, radical adaptation of Medea, co-written with Kate Mulvany, which told the story from the perspective of Medea and Jason’s two young sons. She also directed Nora, based on Ibsen’s A Doll’s House,in which she and co-writer Kit Brookman looked at what happened after Nora slammed the door of her home behind her.

The Merchant of Veniceis technically a comedy, but it contains some decidedly dark elements, particularly its ugly anti-Semitism. To briefly recap the plot, when young nobleman...