A day at Shakespeare in the Port/ by Vanessa Robin Lam and Dominic Kwok

“Nothing will come of nothing, speak again.” Upon hearing the famous Lear quote at Cyberport, you won’t be mistaken that Shakespeare in the Port has returned, now in its second edition.

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Held at the lawn on the second floor of the Cyberport Mall, the festival consists of three mainstage productions: A Midnight Summer’s Dream, The Tempest and Lear. As your everyday Hong Kong students who had little previous encouters with Shakespearean performances, we were impressed by the gorgeous costumes and makeup which created the right mood and setting for the plays. The excellent acting and stage arrangements also made the performances accessible enough for even a five-year-old to understand, as intended by the passionate organiser Meaghan Mcgurgan. In short, Shakespeare in the Port is an approachable version of Shakespeare’s classical plays. It is a truly fabulous attempt recommended to all. Here are our teasers for those who still have not made up their minds to come see it.

A Midsummer’s Night Dream

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The First programme of the day was A Midsummer Night’s Dream, performed by the local Shakespeare- loving group HKU Shax. “I like how there’s a little bit of interaction with the audience. And even though it’s slightly abridged, it still kept the whole storyline,” a fellow audience commented. You will forget that most of them are only university students after seeing the effort they put in. The actors definitely possess skills and talent, as well as passion. A Midsummer Night’s Dream was a fun play to watch with colourful language and we highly recommend it. “It’s a play within a play. It makes you think whether you’re the audience or part of the play. That’s what makes Shakespeare smart,” says Wei Jun Chung, a member of the audience.

The Tempest

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The Second programme was The Tempest, performed in Cantonese by local actors. The director, Aska Leung has done a fine job. Since the play was performed in Cantonese, it removed the language barrier for people to enjoy Shakespeare’s masterpiece. It utilized simple costumes and props but fully draws our attention. However, some may argue that by translating Shakespeare’s work into Cantonese, the play lost some of its essence carefully embedded into the Shakespearean language. Therefore, although we found this version very approachable, we do not recommend it to hardcore Shakespeare fans or people who prefer the “pain” chewing through Shakespeare’s language.

King Lear

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The last and by our opinion the best programme was Lear, a modernised version of King Lear, performed by an experienced team of actors led by Ben Margalith , an experienced director originally from the States. The plot, although slightly altered, kept the gist of the original text with the only major difference being King Lear replaced with a Queen Lear. The acting and intonation were both top notch which makes the story of King Lear easy to follow. Even though the actors were not supported by individual microphones, their voices were projected clearly, making up for the not-too-perfect sound support system at the festival. All in all, it was an accessible play only held back by the massive amount of murder and suicide committed in the play. But if you have a stomach for violence you would have no problem enjoying the brilliant play.

About the sponsers

The festival wouldn’t be possible without its sponsors. PhatRice, a company which commits to help those in need with every transaction they make, was one of them. For every purchase of handphones, PhatRice provides hearing aid for the needy; for every purchase of lamps, they donate a free lamp to African families in need. Also a keen fan of Shakespeare and avid supporter of the local arts, PhatRice supported Shakespeare in the Port by by providing costume pieces for the show. They are also giving them out to those who can complete this quote “We are such stuff as ______ are made on, and our little life is rounded with a ______ ” . Do give it a try! Submit to BARD@PHATRICE.COM

Afterwards

We would like to thank Meaghan for organising this enjoyable festival. We know she has been on a tight budget of 21 thousand Hong Kong dollars over three weeks and we are amazed by the quality of the shows in spite of that. Over a course of three weeks, 2000 kids are able to see the shows for free. Her hard work in promoting arts education is truly admirable. “I don’t think you have to be a smart person to appreciate Shakespeare,” she says. “I try to make Shakespeare entertaining and accessible for everybody.”

Shakespeare in the Park, the famous New York cultural event after which Shakespeare in the Port modelled, is supported by governments in 81 countries, not including Hong Kong. They have massive budgets because their governments support it. The HK government has denied all 9 grants applications for this project, claiming that it has no artistic merit. “I always hire local artists. I never want to import foreign artists and this is probably the biggest reason why we couldn’t get a grant while local artists are just as talented as foreign ones. Governments need to pay less money to foreign artists and more money to hire local artists,” Meaghan states, which we agree. Art in Hong Kong isn’t promoted enough as you can see. “I don’t think a lot of people understand it. They know the name Shakespeare but don’t really try to understand it,” Rosalind Wong, director of A Midsummer Night’s Dream comments. Such a festival like Shakespeare in the Port is what Hong Kong truly needs and we hope, in the future, citizens of Hong Kong can enjoy much more art.

Shakespeare in the Port will be running from now till 3 May. Tickets are available here.

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