Mercantile relevance

Mercantile relevance
Director Bruce Guthrie of Singapore Repertory Theatre's production of the Merchant of Venice.

Singapore might be halfway across the world from London, but it's throwing a big birthday bash for the 450th birthday of Shakespeare soon - in the form of The Singapore Repertory Theatre's (SRT) popular Shakespeare in the Park.

Playing for a full month, SRT expects some 30,000 people to troop past Fort Canning's gothic gates for the Merchant of Venice, including schoolchildren from Jakarta, Brunei and Malaysia for one of the only large-scale Shakespeare productions of its kind in this part of this world.

"People used to ask, 'Will you go to see Shakespeare in the Park', but it's now a question of 'When will you go'," says Charlotte Nors, SRT's executive director, of how the outdoor showings of Shakespeare has become a classic arts outing in Singapore.

This year's production is directed by Bruce Guthrie who first came to Singapore as the associate assistant director for The Bridge Project's Richard III, backing up Sam Mendes as the director. Guthrie went on to direct two other Shakespeare in the Park productions - Twelfth Night (2012) and last year's Othello.

This year he works with Scott Graham from Frantic Assembly, which has made its name in physical theatre - combining movement, design, music and text. The two Scotsmen found a similar wavelength, Guthrie quips, even though it's his first time working with Graham. "I've wanted to since my fiance had been in one of his productions," says the London-based director.

"Graham's collaboration has been incredibly useful as it gives another dynamic to the production which is also a visual spectacle, and the sets are also enormous and bold," he says, adding that the set designer, Richard Kent, is a young, exciting designer from the UK.

The rest of the creative team are equally impressive - with several Tony and Olivier award-winners among them, such as Rick Fisher (lighting), Mike Walker (sound) and Ruth Ling, Singapore's Young Artist Award winner, who composed the music.

So the Singapore audience can expect a very physical, almost action-packed Shakespeare play, staged to be relevant - "it's a very fast-paced piece, with many scene changes, and it's quite political, but its relevance has increased with time," describes Guthrie.

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