Chalk Talk: Here’s our Graham with a quick lesson in Shakespeare


What do the following have in common? The TV show Blind Date, anti-Semitism at football matches and businessmen blowing £100,000 on a bar bill in central London.

Answer: they are all themes that can be used to make the story of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice relevant to today’s modern world.

The play is this year’s production for schools at the Globe Theatre in south London, with every state school in London being offered free tickets for the show, sponsored by Deutsche Bank.

But more than 3,000 students around the country can also access online materials to set up workshops aimed at helping them understand the text.

Blind Date is used as a mechanism for portraying the scenes in which the rich heiress, Portia, deals with her different suitors. The central theme of Shylock seeking his pound of flesh is used to examine issues of anti-Semitism – and the play’s contrasting of the lives of the rich and the poor is also brought starkly into focus with modern times.

“It is astounding how much there is in this play for audiences to connect with, even 400 years on,” says its director, Bill Buckhurst.

Thoughts of Star Trek come to mind with all this – and an amended catchphrase. “It’s Shakespeare, Jim, but not as we know it!”

The much-vaunted critical report by the Policy Exchange think-tank of the education-standards watchdog Ofsted has been published – but without fuelling any more speculation of a rift between Education Secretary Michael Gove and chief schools inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw.

The report was critical of Ofsted, but not of Sir Michael personally. Ofsted replied with a comment by Michael Cladingbowl, Ofsted’s national director of schools, rather than Sir Michael, and the Department for Education restrained itself to an impersonal spokeswoman’s comment emphasising that Mr Gove thought Sir Michael was an outstanding chief inspector – and how much he was looking forward to working with him to in assessing the report’s recommendations. All quite neatly done, really.