London’s next Shylock is a woman (but still Jewish)

London’s next Shylock is a woman (but still Jewish)


norman lebrecht

February 26, 2020

Tracy-Ann Oberman has been cast as the Merchant of Venice in a production set among London refugees from Russian pogroms.

The September touring show is co-produced by Watford Palace Theatre, Leeds Playhouse, Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse, Nuffield Southampton Theatres and Rose Theatre Kingston.

Oberman said: ‘I’ve always wanted to reclaim The Merchant in some way and wanted to see how it would change with a single mother female 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.’

More here.



  • V.Lind says:

    Interesting concept, though she may have to twist a bit to make Portia a convincing Mosleyite. I suppose she can make Antonio feckless enough.

    Keep us posted as to how this plays out if you can, please. (Reviews, etc.).

  • M McAlpine says:

    I would have thought in this modern day and age Shakespeare’s piece of anti-Semitic rhetoric could have been cheerfully dispensed with.

    • Bruce says:

      Maybe this modern day and age isn’t as narrow-minded as you thought. Maybe Shakespeare’s play isn’t, either, if you look at it closely enough &/or in the right light.

      The “quality of mercy” speech and the “On such a night” quartet are masterpieces regardless, though.

  • sam says:

    1) How about switching the gender of all the roles? So Shylock’s daughter, Jessica, becomes a son, Jess?

    A Jewish son who goes against and betrays his Jewish mother? NEVER!! lol

    2) “but still Jewish”

    For now.

    One day, there’ll be a production of
    The Merchant of Mumbai, where Shylock is a Muslim and the others are Hindus, or
    The Merchant of Jerusalem where Shylock is an Arab and the others Jews, or
    The Merchant of Saigon where Shylock is an ethnic Chinese and the others are Vietnamese…

  • Dennis says:

    Another example of the absurdity of modern opera and theatre production. Arbitrary changes to texts and story-lines in order to provoke attention-grabbing headlines. But rather than being “shocking” or “though-provoking” these days, this kind of thing is really just boring.

    How can one justify arbitrarily turning Shylock into a woman, and without doing violence to the whole? What’s next? A “trans-sexual” Hamlet? A “gender fluid” Oedipus?

    • Paul Brownsey says:

      I have much sympathy. I hesitate to book for drama productions at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland because, to judge from reviews, they so love doing this gender-mucking-about stuff. And it does tend to be one way. Has anyone done Eddie Gabler yet? Or Father Courage?

    • John Rook says:

      True. Utterly tedious. I like the notion of ‘reclaiming’ something that was never yours to begin with. This fashion will go the way of all trash.

    • Jerome Hoberman says:

      “Modern?” I saw Dame Judith Anderson as Hamlet in 1970. Even as a child I could recognize that the problem wasn’t her sex but her age.

    • Leporello says:

      Much easier to muck around with out-of-copyright masterpieces than create new works that will survive longer than a fortnight. Typical of our era of the fast buck and fleeting sensationalism.

  • Manuel Drezner says:

    Is she cast as Shylock or as the merchant of Venice? Remember that the merchant of Venice is Antonio.

  • Stuart says:


  • Esther Cavett says:

    “..cast as the MOV..”
    No ! Cast as Shylock. Basic mistake

  • Bruce says:

    By all reports, Glenda Jackson is an amazing Lear, although none of the reviews I’ve read make it clear if she’s playing a man or a woman.

  • Rob Keeley says:

    T A-O is a very fine, sympathetic actress, with a great gift for comedy. This could be very interesting.

  • Elizabeth Owen says:

    I was surprised to see that Al Pacino is presently in a tv series Hunter? I think. No one seems to be complaining about him playing a Jewish man.

  • BrianB says:

    So then it would then be perfectly ok to deprive a female actor of work and cast Portia with a man or boy? As indeed happened in Shakespeare’s time.

  • Sara says:

    Gender bender Hamlet and Shylock can betta sexual, that way it can appeal to the Anglo Saxon pc crowds.