CARRICK man Adrian Cooke is to play the leading role in a modern reworking of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice.
Belfast-based theatre company Fringe Benefits will stage the opening performance of the play, set in 1912 in Belfast, in the Strand Cinema - the first theatrical performance in the art deco building in 30 years.
Produced in association with the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Open Stages project, it will also be showcased at the Lyric Theatre.
“Rehearsals for The Merchant of Venice are progressing well; they are intense yet enjoyable,” said Adrian, who plays the money-lender Shylock. “Playing Shylock has been incredibly challenging as the role has to take on so much baggage from recent history.
“Working on the role has expanded my understanding of how far someone can be pushed before they finally feel compelled to stand up and say enough is enough.”
Whilst retaining Shakespeare’s original text, Fringe Benefits has set the action in the streets and docklands of 1912 Belfast. Home Rule is on the horizon, suffragettes are on the march and there are rumours of war in Europe.
These are boom times for the seafaring merchants, but theirs is a cut-throat business world beset by prejudice and snobbery.
In the early 1980s, Fringe Benefits was one of the most dynamic theatre companies in Belfast. It re-formed in 2009 with the acclaimed revue ‘Pack Up Your Troubles’. Currently based in South Belfast, the company aims to provide the public with a diverse range of quality theatrical events.
Merchant runs in The Strand from April 12-14, moves to the Lyric’s McNaughton studio on April 19 and concludes in the Crescent Arts Centre from April 26-29, with a matinee on April 28. All performances commence at 7.30pm.
Tickets for the Strand and the Crescent are priced at £10 / £8 and are available from the venues in person, online or via telephone booking (Strand: 028 90 665 830, Crescent: 02890242338).
The Lyric tickets are £8/£6 and available in person, via phone on 028 9038 1081 or online.
See www.fringebenefitstheatrecompany.com for all web booking links.