24 young actors take it in turns to play Jessica and Lorenzo in our First Encounters with Shakespeare production of The Merchant of Venice.

Our First Encounters with Shakespeare series continues this year with a new production of The Merchant of Venice featuring actors from the RSC Next Generation Company.

Our First Encounters shows take edited versions of Shakespeare's plays on the road to help introduce new audiences to his stories and language.

Working with our Associate Schools and Regional Theatre Partners, this new production gives 24 young people the chance to get a taste of performing Shakespeare with a professional cast. Jessica and Lorenzo — the two young people caught up in a clash between family, money and culture — will be played by actors from our Next Generation ACT company. The company is made up of under-18s from our Associate Schools who show a talent for performance but otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to develop it.

A man in tortoiseshell glasses and a blue-grey polo neck.
Director Robin Belfield.
Photo by Julia Nottingham © RSC Browse and license our images

The show will tour schools and regional theatres across England, directed and edited by Robin Belfield. He said: "To me it was obvious, who better to play the young characters, full of hope and optimism at the centre of this challenging play, but this group of young people. They represent the regions that The Merchant of Venice will tour to, and what better way to introduce young people to Shakespeare than by watching their peers."

The production will open at local schools followed by a week of performances in the Swan Theatre from Monday 30 September to Saturday 5 October. It will then tour to schools, regional theatres and local communities for seven weeks - full details to be announced shortly. Adobe will co-present the tour which includes a digital learning experience through Adobe Spark and Creative Cloud. 

First Encounters is presented by Adobe