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The Merchant of Venice 1936 starring Tracy-Ann Oberman at Cardiff New Theatre

The Merchant of Venice 1936, Watford Palace Theatre’s ground-breaking new production of one of Shakespeare’s most enduring classics starring Tracy-Ann Oberman (EastEnders, Doctor Who, Friday Night Dinner), who makes history as the first British actress to play Shylock, embarks on a UK tour beginning at the RSC’s Swan Theatre from Thursday 21 September.

Ambition, power and political unrest explode onto the stage in The Merchant of Venice 1936 as Shakespeare’s classic is transported to 1930’s Britain in this “striking and impactful” (The Guardian) new production that “makes theatre history” (Daily Telegraph). Developed in association with HOME Manchester and with support from the Royal Shakespeare Company, this “fascinating and timely” (Daily Mail) production is directed and adapted by Brigid Larmour from an idea by co-creator Tracy Ann-Oberman.

Tracy-Ann Oberman said: “It has a been a lifelong dream of mine to bring this play to the stage in a new way, reimagining Shylock as a one of the tough, no-nonsense Jewish matriarchs I grew up around. I am 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.”

Joining Tracy-Ann and reprising their roles are Hannah Morrish (Antony and Cleopatra, Father Brown) who will play Portia, Raymond Coulthard (Emmerdale, Hotel Babylon) in the roles of Antonio and Arragon, Gavin Fowler as Bassanio (Henry V, King Lear), Jessica Dennis (The Habit of Art) as Mary and Nerissa, Grainne Dromgoole as Jessica (Romeo and Juliet), Xavier Starr (The Mechanicals Presents… Macbeth or Julius Caesar) as Gratiano, Priyank Morjaria (Romeo & Juliet, Kettled) as Lorenzo and Maharajah, as well as Alex Zur (Hamlet, A Level Playing Field) as Tuba, Duke, Waiter, and Valet.

With the city on the brink of political unrest, fascism sweeping across Europe and Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists 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, antisemitic aristocrat Antonio comes to her for a loan, a high-stakes deal is struck. Will Shylock take her revenge, and who will pay the ultimate price?

The Merchant of Venice 1936 creative team includes: Liz Cooke (costume and set design), Rory Beaton (lighting design) and Sarah Weltman (sound design). The Composer is Erran Baron Cohen.

Prior to the UK tour in the autumn, the production opened to glowing reviews at Watford’s Palace Theatre earlier this year.