Eastenders star to feature in Shakespeare’s 'The Merchant of Venice' in Manchester

Tracy Ann Oberman will join the show as Shylock as it reinvents the well-known Shakespeare classic.

By Emma Davidson | November 1st '22

HOME is welcoming Eastenders star Tracy Ann Oberman to its stage in The Merchant of Venice (1936) that debuts in Manchester next year.

Directed by Brigid Larmour, Artistic Director and Chief Executive of Watford Palace Theatre, this reinvention of a Shakespeare classic spotlights the rise of Oswald Mosley’s British Union  of Fascists in the 1930s, and how the East End community came together to stop them in the Battle of Cable Street on 4 October 1936. 

This groundbreaking production reimagines Shylock as an East End matriarch, a widowed  refugee from Russian pogroms. She is an immigrant, running a small business from a cramped  house in Cable Street, working to give her daughter Jessica a better life. 

When aristocratic anti-semite Antonio desperately needs a loan, he makes a dangerous bargain with this woman he has spat on in the street. Will Shylock, bitter from a life plagued by racism and abuse, take her revenge? This new production is a vivid evocation of our history, and a warning for our times.

Tracy-Ann Oberman said, “I’ve always wanted to reclaim The Merchant of Venice in some way and wanted to see how it would change with a single mother as 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 Cable Street, with pawn shops and money lending under the counter of shmatter stalls and seamstress jobs, in the weeks leading up to Mosley’s Fascist march against ‘The Jew’ in 1936. This adaptation will appeal to all immigrant families with strong matriarchs. Everything  starts and ends at home and strong mothers have always understood this.” 

Dave Moutrey, CEO and Artistic Director of HOME, added: “We are delighted to be  presenting this production in association with Watford Palace Theatre. This is a new partnership for us and a valuable opportunity to work on this innovative and new production bringing new  insights to this work. We look forward to sharing this important and powerful retelling of The  Merchant of Venice.” 

Tickets are on sale now.

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The Merchant of Venice

Date: Wednesday 15th – Saturday 25th March
Venue: HOME
Time: 2pm / 7.30pm
Price: £15 – £30