A modern take on William Shakespeare's works

William Shakespeare's tale, The Merchant of Venice, is being staged in a contemporary setting in theatre group Masque's rendition of the play

The Merchant of Venice is one of William Shakespeare's most popular tales, and is a saga of romance, revenge and greed. The play also boasts of memorable characters like the evil moneylender Shylock.

The cast of The Merchant of Venice, a contemporary take on the classic tale by William Shakespeare
The cast of The Merchant of Venice, a contemporary take on the classic tale by William Shakespeare 

Now, theatreperson Vickram Kapadia's Masque theatre group will stage the play as a modern retelling. Kapadia is the director as well as an actor in the play, portraying the character of Shylock.

The cast includes Luke Kenny as the benefactor and friend Antonio, Ira Dubey as the rich heiress Portia and Neil Bhoopalam as the Prince of Morocco/Prince of Aragon, among others. The Merchant of Venice marks the debut of Aditya Birla Group's Aadyam initiative that brings five new plays from reputed theatre groups, to Mumbai and Delhi.

In today's times
Kapadia shares about the play's relevance: “The play is socio-economically and politically resonant. We live in an environment of excess and greed. Consumerism is king. Minorities are marginalised. It's time for society to look within and this play prompts you to do that. It is part of everybody's life.”

The play, which carries a message of secularism and the need to respect the 'other', also boasts of contemporary elements in terms of imagery. “The dialogue lends itself to the high-risk world of today. Instead of rendering a production where you have caskets and people dressed in tights, we bring the play closer to the audience with identifiable props, costumes, etc,” says Kapadia.

Ira Dubey as Portia and Neil Bhoopalam as the Prince of Morocco
Ira Dubey as Portia and Neil Bhoopalam as the Prince of Morocco 

He admits that staging a Shakespeare production is a challenge and likens the process to 'running a marathon'. “It takes five times the effort compared to any other theatre genre. It takes weeks to get the blank verse flowing smoothly off your tongue. Shakespeare's plays require tremendous precision, concentration, stamina and wit,” he admits.

As part of the production, a workshop was conducted for the cast on Shakespearean speech and voice with expert Andrew Wade (who was Head of Voice at the Royal Shakespeare Company from 1990-2003).

Shakespearean matters
Kenny, who is returning to stage and to a Shakespearean play after a long hiatus, admits that getting the language right was challenging as well as invigorating. “An early workshop with Andrew Wade opened up the linguistics. It is a humbling experience,” he reveals.

For Kapadia, it was a tough task to act and also direct the play: “Shylock's character is more daunting to take on, not just because of the character's inherent complexities but because the role is larger than life. Everyone knows it and has opinions on how it should be played.

Acting and directing at the same time cannot be done alone; it requires tremendous help and support — which I fortunately have. The actor requires another director as an external eye,” he sums up. Next up, Kapadia will revive his erstwhile popular production, Black With Equal.

On: Today (7.30 pm) and February 28 (4 pm and 8 pm)
At: Jamshed Bhabha Theatre, NCPA, Nariman Point.
Call: 22824567

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