HOME & Watford Palace Theatre announce groundbreaking production of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice (1936)

HOME has announced a groundbreaking, reimagined new production of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice (1936), presented by Watford Palace Theatre and starring Tracy–Ann Oberman as Shylock.

Directed by Brigid Larmour, Artistic Director and Chief Executive of Watford Palace Theatre, this reinvention of a Shakespeare classic spotlights the rise of Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists in the 1930s, and how the East End community came together to stop them in the Battle of Cable Street on 4 October 1936.

The production will run at HOME in Manchester from Wednesday 15 March to Saturday 25 March 2023, following a run at Watford Palace Theatre from 28 February to 11 March 2023.

This ground–breaking production reimagines Shylock as an East End matriarch, a widowed refugee from Russian pogroms. She is an immigrant, running a small business from a cramped house in Cable Street, working to give her daughter Jessica a better life. When aristocratic anti- semite Antonio desperately needs a loan, he makes a dangerous bargain with this woman he has spat on in the street. Will Shylock, bitter from a life plagued by racism and abuse, take her revenge? This new production is a vivid evocation of our history, and a warning for our times.

Tracy-Ann Oberman said:

“I’ve always wanted to reclaim The Merchant of Venice in some way and wanted to see how it would change with a single mother as Shylock. My own great-grandma and great aunts were single mothers, widows, left in the East End to run the businesses and the homes, which they did with an iron fist. When I spoke about it to Brigid, she instantly got it, and said it gave a brilliant way into the problematic aspects of characters like Antonio and Portia. She saw them as aristocratic young Mosleyites, supporters of the British Union of Fascists led by Oswald Mosley. That led us to Cable Street, with pawn shops and moneylending under the counter of shmatter stalls and seamstress jobs, in the weeks leading up to Mosley’s Fascist march against ‘The Jew’ in 1936. This adaptation will appeal to all immigrant families with strong matriarchs. Everything starts and ends at home and strong mothers have always understood this.”

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