Merchant of Venice: Next Generation Announced
The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) visits Blackpool in October with The Merchant of Venice, produced in partnership with Adobe.
Performances will take place at Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Primary School (Tuesday 8 October), St Mary’s Catholic Academy (Wednesday 9 October) and at the Grand Theatre, Blackpool (Thursday 10 – Saturday 12 October).
Alongside the show’s professional touring cast, two teenagers from Blackpool will appear in the production during its visit to the area: Jacob Greaves (aged 16 from Thornton-Cleaveys, and a student at St Aidan’s High School) and Nico Cetrulo (aged 17 from Hambleton, Poulton, a former student of Hodgson Academy) will share the role of Lorenzo.
Presented in association with the Grand Theatre, Blackpool, The Merchant of Venice will be an edited version of the play, running at 90 minutes, and performed using Shakespeare’s original language. Although primarily aimed at 7-13 year olds, this First Encounters with Shakespeare production can be enjoyed by all ages. All of the performances at the Grand Theatre are open to the public, as is the 7pm performance on Tuesday 8 October at Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Primary School. A performance schedule is at the end of the release.
As part of the partnership with Adobe, the tour will include a digital learning experience for the first time, equipping teachers with resources to teach Shakespeare in new, engaging ways using Adobe Spark and Creative Cloud.
The young people who will appear in the production are part of the RSC’s Next Generation ACT Company. Drawn from each of the English regions, this is a group of 22 young people who have a talent for acting, but who would not necessarily have the opportunity to develop it. These young actors will share the roles of Jessica and Lorenzo, the two characters caught up in a clash between family, money and culture. For performances in Blackpool, Jacob and Nico will be joined by Stephanie Walton (aged 16) and Megan Munro (aged 17) who will play the role of Jessica.
Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Primary School and St Mary’s Catholic Academy are part of the RSC’s Associate Schools Programme. They work in partnership with the RSC, the Grand Theatre, Blackpool and other local schools to develop best practice in how to teach and introduce Shakespeare to school children, based on the techniques used by RSC actors in rehearsals.
Ruth Eastwood, Grand Theatre Chief Executive said: “We are delighted to welcome back our friends and colleagues from the RSC. Children all across Blackpool have been studying Shakespeare in preparation to enjoy another excellent and accessible production, designed to build their passion for theatre and the Bard in particular.”
Fiona Ormerod, Deputy Head, Our Lady of the Assumption School said: “The children and staff at Our Lady of the Assumption are proud and excited to be hosting this amazing production of The Merchant of Venice and bringing Shakespeare to our community.”
Victoria Pollett, Performing Arts teacher at St Mary’s Catholic Academy said: “We are beyond excited to have the RSC coming to St. Mary’s Catholic Academy. We know what a privilege this is and can’t wait for our students to have this experience.”
Robin Belfield who has directed and edited the production said: “Set against the commercial backdrop of Venice, Shakespeare’s play presents a world where business interests collide with personal ambitions and prejudices. The Merchant of Venice 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. At the heart of the play are two young people, Jessica and Lorenzo, about to make some huge choices that will affect their lives forever. It seemed fitting then that these characters be played by young people, and who better than our terrifically talented young company, Next Generation ACT.”
The cast includes Shani Erez making her RSC debut as Shylock, the first time a female actor has played this iconic role for the RSC. Shani is a native Israeli. In addition to her body of work in Israel, her UK theatre credits include Orestes, Twelfth Night and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. TV works includes The Honourable Woman, Silent Witness and The Little Drummer Girl.
Other members of the cast include: Oliver Cudbill (Gratiano), Sam Pay (Duke/Stephano/Tubal), Morgan Philpott (Antonio), Eloise Secker (Nerissa/Lancelet Gobbo), Ray Sesay (Bassanio/Prince of Morocco/Prince of Aragon), Emma Swan (Salerio) and Yasmin Taheri (Portia).
Other members of the creative team include: Anisha Fields (Designer), Tarek Merchant (Music) and Ingrid Mackinnon (Movement).