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On Tuesday, March 19th, our KS5 Drama Students embarked on a journey to the Criterion Theatre at Piccadilly Circus, to witness the captivating performance of ‘Merchant of Venice 1936’. This modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic comedy not only enthralled our students but also sparked profound reflections on historical events and societal dynamics.

Under the masterful conception of Tracy-Ann Oberman, who also portrayed the lead role of Shylock, the students were transported to the tumultuous era of 1936, a time marked by the rise of Oswald Mosley’s fascist regime in London. Through Oberman’s visionary storytelling, the audience was compelled to confront an alternative perspective on the treatment of the Jewish community during this challenging period.

From the opening moments of the play, Oberman skillfully navigated her character’s predicament, immersing the audience in Shylock’s social struggles and injustices. Supported by the esteemed Royal Shakespeare Company, Oberman’s adaptation shed light on the political agendas of Mosley, vividly portrayed through compelling video footage and newspaper headlines, serving as poignant reminders of the ostracisation faced by religious communities.

Following the riveting performance, our students had the privilege of engaging in an exclusive question and answer session with Tracy-Ann Oberman and two other talented cast members. Led by Tiffin Drama’s Lucy Hughes, the Q&A session proved to be an illuminating experience, with students delving into Oberman’s creative process and the motivations behind her poignant reinterpretation of the play. Tracy-Ann explained that she wanted to pay homage to her Great Grandmother who was one of many individuals who stood up to the blackshirts as they attempted to march on Cable Street. With the bravery of trade unionists, communists, anarchists, and the British Jewish communities who gathered together in solidarity, preventing the British Union of Facists to march through London’s East End. This act culminated Mosley’s violent fascist leadership and played a huge part in reducing any political following Mosley might have had. It serves as a reminder that we all have the right to live in a society that embraces all cultures. Had this march continued, who knows what kind of society we would be living in today!

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The students’ thoughtful inquiries, characterised by their academic rigor, left an indelible impression on Oberman, who commended their intellectual curiosity and insightful contributions. Representing the Tiffin Community with the utmost respect and regard, our students demonstrated their appreciation for the arts and their commitment to engaging with complex historical narratives.

This enriching theatrical excursion not only broadened our students’ cultural horizons but also fostered critical thinking and empathy. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to Tracy-Ann Oberman, the entire cast and the wonderful management of The Criterion Theatre for an unforgettable experience that will resonate with our students for years to come.

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