Tracy-Ann Oberman, renowned for her roles in Eastenders and Doctor Who, is set to captivate West End audiences as she reprises the role of Shylock in a unique adaptation of William Shakespeare's timeless play, "The Merchant of Venice." Titled "The Merchant of Venice 1936," this reimagining transports the narrative to the turbulent streets of east London during the 1930s.
Breaking new ground, Oberman becomes the first British actress to embody the complex character of Shylock. The show, opening at the Criterion Theatre on 15 February, promises a fresh perspective, weaving the plot into the political unrest of the time. Against the backdrop of rising fascism in Europe and Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists threatening the Jewish East End, Shylock, portrayed as a strong-willed single mother, runs a pawnbroking business on Cable Street.
The narrative takes a compelling turn when antisemitic aristocrat Antonio seeks a loan from Shylock. Striking a deal amid the looming paramilitary march, the play explores themes of revenge, sacrifice, and the ultimate price paid. Director and adapter Brigid Larmour skillfully brings this vision to life, emphasizing Shylock as a resilient Jewish matriarch in a world on the brink of change.
Tracy-Ann Oberman expressed her excitement, describing the project as a lifelong dream. The production's success and positive reception from audiences nationwide have propelled it to the prestigious Criterion Theatre, where it will run until 23 March. Oberman's dream, as she eloquently puts it, is timely and poignant, reinforcing the message that unity prevails in the face of adversity.