Tracy Ann Oberman (EastEnders, Doctor Who, Friday Night Dinner, Afterlife) will play Shylock in a radical new production of Shakespeare's The Merchant Of Venice (1936) at HOME, Manchester, next spring (March 15-25).
The reinvention is set against the background of the rise of Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists in the 1930s and how the East End community stopped them in the Battle of Cable Street in 1936.
The production reimagines Shylock as an East End immigrant matriarch, running a small business to give her daughter Jessica a better life.
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."
The director will be Brigid Larmour, best known in Manchester for directing the first production of My Mother said I Never Should at Contact in 1987, and currently artistic director of HOME's co-producer, Watford Palace.
"Brigid instantly got it," said Tracy. "She said it gave a brilliant way into the problematic aspects of characters like Antonio and Portia.
"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, said: “We are delighted to be presenting this in association with Watford Palace Theatre. This is a new partnership for us and a vaulable opportunity to work on this innovative production. We look forward to sharing this important and powerful retelling.”