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The Merchant of Venice 1936 | Wycombe Swan

Direct from the RSC, The Merchant Of Venice 1936 is a brand-new adaptation of the classic Shakespeare play set in the East End of London during the Battle of Cable Street in 1936. Adapted by Brigid Larmour (who also directs the production) and Tracy-Ann Oberman (who also stars as Shylock), this version of the play is more relevant and powerful than ever before. This adaptation breathes new life into Shakespeare’s play and the outcome is an incredibly heartbreaking production, which finishes with a feel-good message of people coming together.

The direction from Brigid Larmour and the costume and set design from Liz Cooke combine to create a very immersive production, despite not being in a small venue. First of all, in something very unusual for the Wycombe Swan, there was the option of on-stage seating, with a few audience members sat around tables at the side of the stage which was fantastic and added to the immersion. The cast also used the auditorium a lot, with the first few rows of seats being taken out so they could use the front of the auditorium, and the cast entered through the audience a lot of times, going up stairs at the front of the stage or acting around the audience. This was so cleverly done – I was in the circle, so didn’t feel that immersed but if I was in the stalls, I’m sure it would have felt even more powerful.

The sound design by Sarah Weltman added to the atmosphere of the production through brilliant use of sound effects and music, which really added tension and transported me to the East End in the 30s. There was also a great use of projection (Greta Zabulyte) on the backdrop of the stage during scene changes, showing real, un-edited UK archival footage from the time. This made the production feel more poignant and real.

A standout performance must go to Tracy-Ann Oberman. Not only did she work on the adaptation and writing of the production, but she also stars as the first ever female Shylock and gave an amazing performance. This is a topic and story really close to her heart as she is proudly Jewish herself, and you could see the passion and emotion she had on stage because of this. Her performance is really captivating, emotional and demands your attention – you could hear a pin drop as the audience were so invested in the story and what she had to say. The whole cast gave amazing performances, and at a time that must be so difficult to tell this story every night, they did an amazing job and all deserve praise for what they achieved on that stage.

The Merchant Of Venice 1936 is an incredibly relevant, powerful adaptation and whether you love Shakespeare or have never seen a Shakespeare play before, this adaptation suits everyone and will leave you with a lot to think about.

The Merchant Of Venice 1936 plays at the Wycombe Swan Theatre until Saturday 14th October, before continuing on tour. For more information and tickets, you can follow the link here.


AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review


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