WATFORD Palace Theatre’s ground-breaking new production of Shakespeare’s The Merchant Of Venice will visit York Theatre Royal on tour from November 14 to 18.
Tracy-Ann Oberman, from EastEnders, Doctor Who and Friday Night Dinner, will play Shylock on an autumn itinerary that will open at the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, from September 21 to October 7.
Developed in association with HOME Manchester and with support from the RSC, The Merchant Of Venice 1936 is adapted and directed by Brigid Larmour from an idea by co-creator Oberman. Their thought-provoking and timely reimagining relocates the action to an electrifying new setting: London in 1936.
The capital city is on the brink of political unrest, fascism is sweeping across Europe and Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists is threatening a paramilitary march through the Jewish East End. Strong-willed single mother Shylock runs a pawnbroking business from her house in Cable Street, where Mosley will march.
When charismatic, anti-Semitic aristocrat Antonio comes to her for a loan, a high-stakes deal is struck. Will Shylock take her revenge? Who will pay the ultimate price?
“It has a been a lifelong dream of mine to bring this play to the stage in a new way, reimagining Shylock as one of the tough, no-nonsense Jewish matriarchs I grew up around in Brent,” says London-born actress, playwright and narrator Oberman, 56.
“I’m delighted this project is finally happening and look forward to sparking debate and enlightening people about a pivotal but largely forgotten part of British history – just how close the establishment were to Oswald Mosley and his British Union Of Fascists. I cannot wait to take this important, sharp, sexy and heartfelt production to theatres around the country.”
Oberman played Chrissie Watts in the BBC One soap opera EastEnders from 2004 to 2005; Yvonne Hartman in a two-part Doctor Who story, Army Of Ghosts/Doomsday, and Valerie Lewis or “Auntie Val” in the Channel 4 sitcom Friday Night Dinner from 2011 to 2020.
Larmour’s production will open at Watford Palace Theatre on February 27 before transferring to HOME Manchester from March 15. Joining her in the production team will be costume and set designer Liz Cooke, lighting designer Rory Beaton, sound design Sarah Weltman and composer Erran Baron Cohen (yes, actor/comedian Sacha’s older brother).
Trafalgar Theatre Productions and Eilene Davidson Productions are producing the tour in association with the RSC, HOME Manchester and Watford Palace Theatre.
Tickets for the York run can be booked on 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.