Watford Palace Theatre is set to play host to the world premiere of a new reworking of William’s Shakespeare’s famous play The Merchant of Venice.
The production, titled The Merchant of Venice (1936), transports the action of the play from 16th century Venice to the East End of London in 1936, with actress Tracy-Ann Oberman, best known for her roles in EastEnders and It’s a Sin, set to take on the usually-male role of Shylock. She is also the co-creator of the reworking, alongside director Brigid Larmour.
Joining her will be Hannah Morris as Portia, Raymond Coulthard as Antonio, Adam Buchanan, Jessica Dennis, and the recently graduated Gráinne Dromgoole, Priyank Morjaria and Xavier Starr. Hannah and Raymond will be reprising these roles from the workshop production with the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) earlier this year.
A spokesperson for the production says: “By presenting Shylock as a woman and placing the action in London in 1936 this production offers a rare and vivid insight into a dark chapter in our history, all too relevant to Britain today. Fascism is sweeping across Europe, and Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists threatens a paramilitary march through the Jewish East End.
“Shylock, a widowed survivor of anti-Semitic pogroms in Russia, hopes to give her daughter Jessica a better life. She runs a pawnbroking business from her house in Cable Street where Mosley will march.
“Charismatic heroine Portia and the Merchant himself, Antonio, are aristocratic Mosleyites, their playground is piano bars at the Ritz, bias cut silk gowns, white tie and tails. It’s a vivid evocation of our history, and a warning for our times.”
Director Brigid Larmour said: “We’ve assembled a brilliant cast of actors to join Tracy-Ann. It’s a creative mixof established leading actors with exciting recent graduates – just like when I gave our Portia, Hannah, her first job out of drama school in 2016!
“We have direct links with the history we explore in the production. Members of Tracy-Ann’s family took part in the Battle of Cable Street, a relative of Adam’s witnessed it from an upstairs window at the age of five, and Jessica’s grandmother was briefly arrested for ‘plot to treason’ in Germany in the 1930s.”
The production will run at the Watford Palace Theatre from February 27 to March 11 next year. To book tickets, visit the website.