The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) visits Bradford, Middlesbrough and Skipton in October with The Merchant of Venice, produced in partnership with Adobe. Performances will take place at Macmillan Academy, Middlesbrough (Monday 21 and Tuesday 22 October), Skipton Academy (Wednesday 23 October) and at the Bradford Alhambra Studio (Thursday 24 October).
Alongside the show’s professional touring cast, six local teenagers will appear in the production during its visit to the area, with two teenagers, Paige Costello and Adam McDonnell and, former pupil, Kieron Wilson, performing in their school, Macmillan Academy.
Paige Costello (aged 14 from Middlesbrough, a student at Macmillan Academy), Jerminah Mangena (aged 15, from Ferryhill, a student at King James I Academy) and Scout Worsley (aged 15 from Bradford, a student at Bradford Academy) will alternate the role of Jessica.
Mohamed Danina (aged 16 from York, a student at Fulford School), Adam McDonnell (aged 16 from Middlesbrough, a student at Macmillan Academy) and Kieron Wilson (aged 17 from Middlesbrough, a former student at Macmillan Academy) will alternate the role of Lorenzo.
Presented in association with the Alhambra Theatre, 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. Both performances at the Bradford Alhambra Studio are open to the public, as are the 7pm performances on Monday 21 October at Macmillan Academy, and on Wednesday 23 October at Skipton Academy. 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.
Macmillan Academy and Skipton Academy are both part of the RSC’s Associate Schools Programme. They work in partnership with the RSC, the Alhambra Theatre 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.
Lyndsay Yale, Drama Teacher at Macmillan Academy, said:
“Following the success of last year’s production of The Comedy of Errors, we are delighted to be hosting the RSC’s Next Generation production of The Merchant of Venice. Seeing Shakespeare performed live really brings the plays to life for our students, and the First Encounters adaptation provides a great introduction to Shakespeare for young and old alike. We are all particularly excited that the show will feature our students, Paige, Adam and Kieron in the roles of Jessica and Lorenzo.”
Richard McManus, Principal, Skipton Academy, said:
“As a school we are thrilled to have the Royal Shakespeare Company visiting our school and enabling our students and our community to access a top quality drama production. The opportunity for our students and staff to work with the RSC is a once in a lifetime experience that will inspire the young people at The Skipton Academy.”
Adam Renton, General Manager Bradford Theatres, said:
“We are delighted to welcome the RSC to Bradford and The Studio once again. Their engaging adaptations are an excellent introduction for young people to experience live theatre and give them and their families the opportunity to take their first steps into Shakespeare.”
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).
Macmillan Academy, Middlesbrough
Monday 21 October, 1.15pm (school performance), 7pm (public performance)
For tickets, £5, call 01642 800800 or call in to Macmillan Academy Reception.
Tuesday 22 October, 1.15pm (school performance)
Skipton Academy, Skipton
Wednesday 23 October, 1.45pm (schools performance), 7pm (public performance), Tickets, costing £7, are available from the school. More info: 01756 792965
The Studio, Bradford
Thursday 24 October, 2pm and 7pm (public performances)
Box Office: 01274 432000, www.bradford-theatres.co.uk