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Merchant of Venice becomes East End matriarch at Liverpool Playhouse

Tracy-Ann Oberman will play Shylock in a new version of The Merchant of Venice at Liverpool Playhouse this autumn.

The Shakespearean classic, opening on September 22, is a five-way co-production between the Everyman & Playhouse, Watford Palace, Nuffield Southampton Theatres, Rose Theatre and Leeds Playhouse.

Oberman, whose Three Sisters on Hope Street was staged at the Everyman during Capital of Culture year, is devising the new production with Watford Palace’s artistic director Brigid Lamour, setting the story in 1936 London and against the backdrop of fascism sweeping across Europe.

The actress and antisemitism campaigner was inspired to reframe The Merchant of Venice based on her own great grandmother’s experience as a single mother in the East End of London - drawing on her own family history of her grandmother and uncles who were on the front line at The Battle of Cable Street as children

The timely retelling sees Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists threatening to march through the Jewish East End where widowed Shylock, a survivor, runs a small business from her dark and cramped terraced house. From there she hopes to provide daughter Jessica a better future.

Oberman says: “I’ve always wanted to reclaim The Merchant in some way and wanted to see how it would change with a single mother female 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.”

The Merchant of Venice is at the Liverpool Playhouse from September 22 to October 3. More HERE

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