Joining Tracy-Ann Oberman in her portrayal of Shylock, Hannah Morrish plays Portia. An award-winning Shakespearean actress, Hannah is perhaps best known for her Octavia in Antony and Cleopatra at the National Theatre and her Lavinia in Titus Andronicus at the RSC. She was involved in workshop development of the project at the RSC earlier this year with Raymond Coulthard, who also joins the production as Antonio, his numerous television credits include regulars in Mr Selfridge and Hotel Babylon as well as an extensive career on the stage at the RSC, National Theatre, Donmar Warehouse amongst numerous others.
Continuing a legacy of championing recent graduates and rising stars, Gráinne Dromgoole, Priyank Morjaria and Xavier Starr join the team, all of whom graduated in the last three years.
Completing the cast are Adam Buchanan (Pride and Prejudice, Sheffield Crucible) and Jessica Dennis (Twelfth Night, Romeo + Juliet, The Orange Tree Theatre).
By presenting Shylock as a woman and placing the action in London in 1936 this production offers a rare and vivid insight into a dark chapter in our history, all too relevant to Britain today. Fascism is sweeping across Europe, and Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists threatens a paramilitary march through the Jewish East End. Shylock, a widowed survivor of anti-Semitic pogroms in Russia, hopes to give her daughter Jessica a better life. She runs a pawnbroking business from her house in Cable Street where Mosley will march. Charismatic heroine Portia and the Merchant himself, Antonio, are aristocratic Mosleyites, their playground is piano bars at the Ritz, bias cut silk gowns, white tie and tails. It’s a vivid evocation of our history, and a warning for our times.
Director Brigid Larmour says “We’ve assembled a brilliant cast of actors to join Tracy-Ann. It’s a creative mix of established leading actors with exciting recent graduates – just like when I gave our Portia, Hannah, her first job out of drama school in 2016! We have direct links with the history we explore in the production. Members of Tracy-Ann’s family took part in the Battle of Cable St., a relative of Adam’s witnessed it from an upstairs window at the age of five, and Jessica’s grandmother was briefly arrested for ‘plot to treason’ in Germany in the 1930s.”
Actress and producer Tracy-Ann Oberman adds “After our Covid cancellation, The Merchant of Venice (1936) has come back better and stronger with a most exciting future ahead. This team of actors are the dream team – fearless, brave, and talented. Ray and Hannah join us from our RSC workshop earlier this year, and I am looking forward to welcoming the full cast to discover our new ‘Rialto’ in Cable Street 1936.”
The Merchant of Venice (1936) is presented by Watford Palace Theatre in association with HOME Manchester. Supported by Trafalgar Theatre Productions, Eilene Davidson Productions, and developed with support from the Royal Shakespeare Company.