The Merchant of Venice 1936 to transfer to the West End, starring Tracy-Ann Oberman

Oberman will reprise the role of Shylock in this reimagining of William Shakespeare’s classic play, which transports the action to east London in the 1930s.

Olivia Rook
Olivia Rook

Eastenders and Doctor Who actor Tracy-Ann Oberman will star in The Merchant of Venice 1936, as it transfers to London’s West End. The show opens at the Criterion Theatre on 15 February.

Oberman is set to reprise her portrayal of Shylock, the play’s principal villain, and is the first British actress to take on the role. She is joined by Raymond Coulthard as Antonio and Arragon, Hannah Morrish as Portia, Gavin Fowler as Bassanio, Jessica Dennis as Mary and Nerissa, Grainne Dromgoole as Jessica, Xavier Starr as Gratiano, Alex Zur as Yuval/The Duke/Balthasar/Blackshirt (member of the British Union of Fascists), and Nancy Farino as Stefania/Blackshirt.

In this reimagining, London is on the brink of political unrest, with 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 is planning to march. But when charismatic, antisemitic aristocrat Antonio comes to her for a loan, a deal is struck. Will Shylock take her revenge, and who will pay the ultimate price?

“It has been a lifelong cherished 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,” said Oberman of the role. “The love we have experienced from theatre audiences around the country for the way that this story is told has propelled us into the West End. I’m delighted that my dream has touched hearts and minds along the way. This transfer to the Criterion – which could not be more timely – will continue to spread the message that we are stronger together.”

The play is directed and adapted by Brigid Larmour and runs at the Criterion until 23 March.

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Photo credit: Oberman and the cast of The Merchant of Venice 1936. (Photo by Marc Brenner)

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