The Merchant Of Venice: A ‘gold-glistering’ performance


photo 4By Fitri Handa Yani and Lee Xin Lei

‘Twas a Labor Day that ended with a roaring applause throughout the park for the Singapore Repertory Theatre, and it was most deservingly so.

You’d agree when you finally catch one of their shows running from now till 25th May (mark it on your calendar guys). Their modern rendition of the play, which initially made me  apprehensive of how the play will turn out, quickly became their biggest strength. The apt use of a timeless set, modern technology and the distinct difference between Shylock’s dated costume from the rest of the cast are some of the unique features that you might pick out. They are not only loaded with symbolic meaning but also tools to bridge the generation gap for the Shakespearean ‘newbies’ to better understand Shakespeare’s complex and multilayered work.

The contemporary take on The Merchant Of Venice highlights the modern society’s fragmentation through the emphasis of social relationships, class, money and power. This piece has always been well-received by the modern audience as the issues raised 450 years ago are still astonishingly applicable today. We have the profit-driven Shylock living on massive interests collected from the money he loans out to desperate people. He is no doubt rich and powerful, but his end is rendered the most unfortunate. With the lost of his daughter and wealth, he becomes the epitome of alienation.

The remarkable thing about this play is all the characters are flawed. In everyone of them exist an angel and a devil. For instance, Shylock’s daughter, Jessica has not expected her betrayal to cause her father’s fall. She simply wants to escape his overprotective love to pursue her own. Moreover, Bassanio’s act of giving away Portia’s ring is out of gratitude instead of infidelity. In this case, Shakespeare cleverly addresses the inner conflict in human beings through the characters’ actions and intentions in the play. No one is diabolically bad or fantastically good, everyone of us are shaped by imperfections.

This revamping of Shakespearean classic brings the audience through time to witness the unchanging human nature in a changing world. With the cast’s experienced and skilful acting, The Merchant Of Venice has definitely left a deep impression in the minds of many.