Schools and theatres to get first encounter with Merchant of Venice

Published: 26 July 2019
Reporter: Steve Orme

“Challenging”: director Robin Belfield Credit: Julia Nottingham

The Royal Shakespeare Company is to tour The Merchant of Venice to schools and theatres in autumn 2019 as part of its First Encounters programme.

So far, more than 100,000 people have experienced edited versions of the plays, which are performed using Shakespeare’s original language, as part of First Encounters.

The Merchant of Venice will be directed and edited by Robin Belfield who said, “the play asks some very challenging questions, especially for audiences today—questions about the way we live, work and behave with people of different faiths and cultures.”

Jacqui O’Hanlon, RSC director of education, said, “at the heart of this First Encounters with Shakespeare production are the regional theatres and schools we’re privileged to work with to create it. Together, we bring the excitement of Shakespeare’s work right into the heart of schools and local communities.”

The production will feature young actors from the RSC’s next generation company working alongside professional actors. The youngsters, aged between 13 and 18, will take turns to play the roles of Jessica and Lorenzo, the two characters caught up in a clash between family, money and culture. As the production makes its way around the country the roles of Jessica and Lorenzo where possible will be performed by two young people local to the area.

The Merchant of Venice will open in September 2019 in Midlands schools and the Swan Theatre, Stratford before going on a six-week tour. Locations include Melton Mowbray, Birmingham, Northamptonshire, Blackpool, Newcastle upon Tyne, Middlesbrough, Bradford, Skipton, Cornwall, Devon, Canterbury, Hull and Nottingham.

The production is primarily aimed at 7- to 13-year-olds although it “can be enjoyed by all ages”, according to the RSC.

The complete list of venues can be found at the RSC web site.