I was able to catch the KL Shakespeare Players with their new version of Shakespeare Demystified “The Merchant of Venice” on opening night at the Penang Performing Arts Centre. I’m very glad I did.
Here they are after all the applause, before their post-show Q & A.
The show itself is in ingenious romp through the heart of the “Merchant of Venice” – demystifying it for the audience with pertinent, pre-scene narration which gives everyone a “heads-up” about what’s about to come. It’s a great way to watch Shakespeare – short, interesting spurts.
The acting was great, with Ivan Chan stealing the show in many scenes, playing Antonio and a host of other interesting characters with great vigor and physicality as proven by the amount of sweat he left on the floor.
But it wasn’t just Chan who shined. All of the acting was lively and humorous, and parts of it downright unexpected. I appreciated the Christian-Jew separation as defined by the Shakespeare era. It was enlightening to see how the culture and religion clashes of yesteryear are, perhaps, not so different from those of today. Lim Soon Heng played a wonderfully rounded Shylock, and Lim Kien Lee’s direction provided the audience with a tight script and focused performance. I also enjoyed Lee’s decision for Shylock to wear a big, hideous mask, with massive stereotypical nose until he gives his famous speech about being no different from anyone else. It was a great symbolic reminder of how stereotypes serve no one but the enablers of racial discord.
“The Merchant of Venice” is playing all weekend at Penangpac before heading to Kuala Lumpur next week to continue its run. I highly recommend you run out and see it.