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Tracy-Ann Oberman to star as Shylock in new The Merchant of Venice tour

The new production is co-produced by five different venues

Tracy Ann Oberman

Tracy-Ann Oberman will star in a new touring production of The Merchant of Venice, it has been announced.

Oberman will take on the role of Shylock in the new production of Shakespeare's play, which is directed by Brigid Larmour and set in the East End in the 1930s. It reimagines the lead character as a matriarch overseeing her business after having fled the pogroms in Russia, and is based on Oberman's own great-grandmother's experiences.

The piece is co-produced by Watford Palace Theatre, Leeds Playhouse, Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse, Nuffield Southampton Theatres and Rose Theatre Kingston. It opens in Southampton on 4 September, where it runs until 19 September, before visiting Liverpool (22 September to 3 October), Watford (6 to 17 October), Leeds (20 to 31 October) and Kingston (3 to 14 November).

Oberman said: "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, 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 an East End 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."

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