Performance Performing Arts

Review: Shakespeare Demystified – The Merchant of Venice (KL Shakespeare Players, 2016)

Stage exercise in pedagogy dissects morality in The Merchant of Venice, provoking questions about Shakespeare’s Jewish villain.

Directed by Lim Kien Lee
Starring Ivan Chan, Lim Soon Heng, Tika Mutamir & Hannan Azlan

From the get go, the sense of ease emanating from members of KL Shakespeare Players (KLSP) signify that this is not your average theatre performance. Bringing a more relaxed approach to the works of the bard,  Shakespeare Demystified is a series of performances based on Shakespeare’s catalogue, designed to educate audiences. The Merchant of Venice continues this series, opening last Wednesday to a full-house of students and curious families. Presenting energetic performers and an unbeatable sense of enthusiasm, KLSP took audiences through key scenes of the play with a clever, minimal set comprising two trunks and cloaks. Ivan Chan led the performance, buzzing through multiple, memorable roles, while gravitas flowed from Tika Mutamir‘s empowered Portia. It proved a riveting walk through a popular story, but KLSP slid the play’s allegedly-racist angle under the scope. Was Shylock the Jew a stereotype created in an era of religious discord? It proved a tough question to answer by the end of the night, but a strong majority of audience members remained for the post-performance question and answer session. And if you can get this many millennials to show up, learn, and stay interested in Shakespeare, then you’re clearly doing Shakespeare 400 justice.

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Shakespeare Demystified: The Merchant of Venice was held at Pentas 2, Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre from 20 – 24 April. For more details, make sure to check out Facebook!

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