A POPULAR outdoor theatre group has announced its production for 2024.

Shakespeare at Traquair will return for its annual summer performance with the Bard’s classic, The Merchant of Venice.

After the hugely successful run of Richard III last year, the company will return to The Merchant of Venice for the first time in 20 years.

Directing this year’s production is Shakespeare at Traquair veteran David Bon.

He said: “I am delighted to be taking on the role of director this year. I have been working with Shakespeare at Traquair since 2007, when I was fortunate enough to be cast in Tom Hudson’s production of The Tempest.

“Since then, it’s been my privilege to perform in 12 and direct two productions with the group.

“The gorgeous setting of Traquair House has proven itself time and again to be a chameleon-like and magical venue for live, promenade performance.

“When you add in the vagaries of the Scottish weather and the proximity and interaction with the audience that outdoor theatre brings you get a raw and authentic experience that is hard to match – but then I am very biased!”

The play follows a young Venetian aristocrat Bassanio who is working to win the hand of his love, Portia, by completing the challenges set out by her late father.

However, both he and his friend Antonio are broke, with Antonio’s investments tied up at sea, and the pair seek the help of moneylender Shylock.

But with Shylock expecting a pound of Antonio’s flesh as his payment, and three of Antonio’s three ships out at sea, will one make it back in time to repay their debt?

David added: “As many people will be aware this is a challenging play.

“We only need to look at what is happening in the world around us right now to realise that the themes and issues it raises remain as relevant as ever.

“We’ll tackle this head on in our production which will be set in 1920s Venice capturing both the decadence and rising economic and political tensions of that time.

“Whilst this is a comedy – all the lovers get married at the end of the play – for me there is a real sense that most of them are unhappy with their lot at the end. This is not a play where at the end we feel these are our heroes who have got their happy ending.”

Ahead of this summer, Shakespeare at Traquair will be hosting auditions on Sunday, January 14 at St Joseph’s Neighbourhood Centre in Peebles.

“I’m really looking forward to getting started on this years’ show, kicking off with the auditions on January 14,” David said. “If you’ve ever come to see the show and thought ‘I could do that’ or even that you’d like join the musicians or the backstage team, then I’d encourage you to come along and give it a go.

“The rehearsals and the show itself are enormous fun and we have all sizes of parts available, so come along to the auditions and give it a go!”

Shakespeare at Traquair is a community-based drama group, and it’s celebrating its 29th year producing the open-air theatre show at Traquair House.

The Merchant of Venice will take to the grounds at Traquair House from Wednesday, May 29 to Saturday, June 1, and then June 5-8 – all performances will be 7.30pm.

Tickets will go on sale in April and will be available from the Eastgate Theatre box office.

For more information on Shakespeare at Traquair, performances, or to be added to the group’s email list, visit: www.shakespeare-at-traquair.co.uk