Actor Tracy-Ann Oberman has revealed how her own experiences of misogyny and anti-Semitism have informed a new production of The Merchant of Venice, in which she will star.
She will play Shylock in a new touring production of the play, directed by Brigid Larmour.
Oberman received death and rape threats on Twitter after speaking out about instances of anti-Semitism.
Speaking at the play’s launch at London’s Cable Street Inn today she said: “I stuck my head above the entertainment parapet and spoke out, alongside male counterparts like David Baddiel and Eddie Marsan.
“The misogyny I found, the hatred and vitriol that came towards me as a Jewish woman, the rape threats, the death threats, the sexualization – all of it was so pointed.
“I grew up with matriarchs, who have informed how I see Shylock and I wanted to see what would happen if you took a strong, angry woman who is struggling against 1930’s anti-Semitism and put her in the play.”
The production is set in the 1930s in London’s East End, against the backdrop of Oswald Mosley’s rise in popularity as the leader of the British Union of Fascists.
Oberman has drawn inspiration from her experiences online for the role.
She told The Stage: “People get behind a keyboard and they can be anonymous. They’ve got a weapon and they’re going to use it. When people start posting hate, I think anonymity should be taken away from them.
“People are radicalised online, and it’s important to have voices like mine and many others to puncture those echo chambers, to say this casual racism that you are putting out is wrong, don’t normalise it.”
Larmour told The Stage she was interested to see “how a woman plays a Shakespearean lead that was conceived as a man, but brings a woman’s experience of the world and a woman’s sensibility of the world to the role”. She said it would explore how “somebody would deal with being not only vilified because she’s Jewish, but vilified because she’s a woman”.
The play is co-produced by Watford Palace Theatre, Leeds Playhouse, Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse, Nuffield Southampton Theatres and Rose Theatre Kingston.
It opens in Southampton on September 4, where it runs until September 19 before going on tour.