Shakespeare In The Park is came back this year with their rendition of Shakespeare’s famous political play, Julius Caesar. The play itself ran in Fort Canning park and gave viewers a stunning performance that was both powerful and thought-provoking.
No matter if you got the opportunity to see it or not, The Local Bytes was able to get an an exclusive interview with the director of this masterpiece, Guy Unsworth, to allow you to go behind the scenes of a classic tale that was reimagined.
Q: Why did you decide to cast a woman in the role of Julius Caesar?
A: Shakespeare wrote 47 named parts, 45 of which were male, so I knew immediately I needed to look at scaling back the numbers, or at least that I’d have actors multi-rolling. I also wanted to readdress the gender balance as otherwise I wouldn’t be making themost of the acting pool here in Singapore. On top of that, with it being a contemporary version, it was important to reflect society today, celebrating women in leadership, but equally bringing the issues surrounding the subject matter to the fore. Importantly though, I’m letting the play do the work. Caesar in his day was a leader who, to others had gained too much power – Jo Kukuthas’s Caesar inher day (today) has done exactly the same. Shakespeare is a writer for all time, and the casting reflects this.
Q: What was your vision behind the play?
A: Shakespeare’s work is very human. He writes about characters in a deliciously messy way. By this I mean he creates characters through very everyday traits (Brutus asks what time it is or he wants a glass of wine – Cassius wants a larger glass of wine, and already knows what the time is). As a result. I think his plays work best when lodged in a very relatable, human world as opposed to anything too abstract and intangible. In addition to this, Julius Caesar was first performed in Elizabethan (contemporary) costume so I figured Shakespeare saw it as a play for ‘today’ rather than a historical documentary. So to answer your question (eventually, sorry), I wanted it to be a contemporary and human world that a singapore audience would relate to. The rest followed from there: what is Rome today? Who are these individuals today? What are they fighting for? How does ‘the crowd’ receive news nowadays? How could we reflect and young and international audience?
Q: Why did you choose Julius Caesar out of all of Shakespeare’s plays?
A: I think politics across the world and they way we experience it has changed a great deal in the last few years. The media plays a much bigger part, and so there’s something more theatrical about it. Somehow it’s more exciting, more manipulative, more dramatic. When re-setting Shakespeare it’s important to find the world and period which fits the specific play best, so whilst some plays wouldn’t fit a modern production, Julius Caesar seemed ripe for a contemporary setting.
Also, when I was a teenager I found Shakespeare very difficult to get my head into, so whenever I direct it, I’m very keen to bear my younger self in mind. I want to make something which my teenage self would have enjoyed. When reading JC, I figured that it’s often presented in a relatively stately and ceremonial way and yet is still considered one of the great plays. So I thought that if I could present this great play in a way which teenagers in Singapore, and indeed newcomers to Shakespeare would love it, then that was an awesome challenge to take on. I could see a world where it could be fast and furious, with lots of theatrical surprises along the way.
Q: What message do you want to bring across to viewers?
A: The brilliance of the play means that audiences can take a huge variety of messages away from it. I’m interested in people going away and discussing their differences of opinions than me dictating a particular message. I am however wanting audiences to think twice about how we receive our news, how we generate our opinions, and the speed at which public figures can rise and fall as a result of this. With the elections in Malaysia this week, the play all seemed very real. We would be lying if we said that we’d pre-empted that, but once again Shakespeare proved how timeless and universal he is.
What was the audition process like? Did you already have an idea of who you wanted to play the different characters?
I’d worked with a couple of people before (Dan Jenkins and Thomas Pang) on Hand to God, so that made life simpler. They’re both brilliant, exciting actors and fantastic company members so it was a no brainer for me. Knowing them personally I was able to build the ideas around them too – I wanted Casca (Dan’s part) to have a military leader feel to him as he’s the first to cooly put the knife in.
For Thomas I knew he could cleverly be a backseat Mark Anthony for the first half, and then wham-bam there he is with a charming, manipulating Mark Anthony to open act two. I also knew Thomas worked out a lot, so the image of him carrying Caesar’s body at the end of the first half became an option (Shakespeare has two people carry the body – necessarily for a male Caesar – but definitely a less powerful image).
Some of the others I auditioned in person a year ago, and others I auditioned over skype/self-tape-auditions. The latter is harder as I much prefer to audition people in person. That said, it’s worked out well. I love the whole team.
Were there any parts of your play that were changed during the preparation process over the last two years?
Many many. The two years is like a fermentation process. We start with a cheap wine of an idea, in the hope that it matures to something rich and full of flavour. I’m very grateful for my terrific designer Richard Kent, whose patience and intelligent insight meant that we kept amending and improving the ideas as we went. And then of course there are rehearsals – where the actors always bring brilliant thoughts to the table.
Q: Do you think your version is an improved version? How so?
A: I don’t think anyone could expect their version to be an improved one, that’s too subjective, and nobody knows quite how the original play is supposed to go. What I hope for is a unique version – one that JC lovers can enjoy and watch the show afresh. And for JC newcomers, I hope it will be one that they’ll remember and, I hope, encourages them to watch more versions of it.
Q: Have you received any backlash due to Julius being a woman?
A: A few people have been a little confused by the idea, but they’re the ones who probably expect to see a tall old man in a toga – and I have no interest in doing that production, it’s been done too many times already. On the flipside we’ve received tonnes of positive support for it, and Jo is a superb actress, so the doubters are convinced otherwise, I’m sure.
$1/hour Karaoke sessions at Manekineko Singapore
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・Promotion on Weekday is from Sunday Night session to Friday Day session, Weekend is from Friday Night session to Sunday Day session.
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Photo credit: Karoake Manekineko Singapore
Neon Lights festival returns for a three-day celebration of the best indie acts
Singapore’s biggest indie music festival, Neon Lights, is back for a third instalment this November with a stacked line-up spanning three days. The festival returns to Fort Canning Park from November 9 to November 11, complete with headline acts and indie legends from all around the world.
After successful runs in 2015 and 2016, local indie fans were left disappointed when Neon Lights took a break last year. The organisers made a promise the festival would return in full strength in 2018 and that it did. Festival director Declan Forde said they were thrilled to be returning and had put a lot of thought into the line-up to ensure both quality and diversity so everyone could enjoy the festival to the fullest.
Kicking things off on November 9 is Malaysian singer-songwriter Yuna who will be serenading the crowd in her first public performance in over a year.
Fans of Interpol are also in luck because the band from New York will be making their Asian debut with a full set on November 10.
Other acts include the likes of Caribou, Riot !n Magenta and Cigarettes After Sex amongst others. For the full line-up, as well as schedules, head on down to the website.
Neon Lights runs November 9 to November 11, 6pm to 1030pm on November 9 and 2pm to 1030pm on November 10 and 11. Individual day tickets start from $99 for adults and $25 for children and can be purchased via the website or SISTIC.
Things to do this weekend in Singapore (21 Sept – 23 Sept)
This week’s an exciting one. We’ve got a 2000-2018 dance party, art exhibitions (some all the way till 3am) and something for all you tea-lovers out there. With these many options on your plate, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
1. Art After Dark x 6th Anniversary Celebrations (21 Sept)
Celebrate Gillman Barracks’ 6th anniversary with another run of their Art After Dark! It’s the perfect way to kick off your weekend – there’ll be live performances, interactive art experiences and delicious food served all the way till 3am.
When you’re done exploring the two new gallery openings presented by Ota Fine Arts and Yavuz Gallery, or traversed through our very own Nguan’s photography, you can rock out to the tunes of Pleasantry and The Pinholes. Definitely grab that late night bite from the likes of Park Bench Deli and Handlebar.
Address: Gillman Barracks, 9 Lock Road, Singapore 108937
Time: 7pm onwards
Ticket pricing: Free
2. Singapore Tea Festival 2018 (21 Sept – 23 Sept)
Quench your thirst with this year’s comeback of Singapore Tea Festival. With more than a hundred blends of tea, 30 tea and tea-related brands, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
There’ll even be dialogues and workshops where you’ll about learn skills such as modern kombucha making from industry leaders. To redeem a complimentary Yixing Purple Clay glazed porcelain cup, all you’ve got to do is register at teapasar’s booth!
Address: ION Orchard, 2 Orchard Turn, Singapore 238801
Time: Fri: 3PM-10PM, Sat & Sun: 10AM-10PM
Ticket pricing: Free
3. V A N I T A S Group Art Exhibition (21 Sept – 23 Sept)
This brings a group of talented women into the spotlight. Featuring six independent female artists, VANITAS is a group show which explores themes like mortality, the transience of life and the futility of pleasure.
Be wowed by the dark art styles of @sarahthursday, @erikartoon, @mothhead_, @peithedragon, @yelselogy and @sanatoriium. Remember to bring some spare cash to purchase some of their merch!
Address: kult, Block C2-5, Emily Hill, 11 Upper Wilkie Road, Singapore 228120
Time: Fri: Opening Night @ 5pm, Sat & Sun: 12PM-8PM
Ticket pricing: Free
4. Xiao Kopitiam #2 (22 Sept)
Pop by this reimagined kopitiam for maybe the chillest weekend you’ve had in a while.
Dig into LAD & DAD’s comfort British fare – think bangers & mash and beef stew (we can attest to the amazingness of this dish), get a intricate henna design from the famous @henn.drawn or just grab a personalised haiku at the typewriter.
Address: 21 Moonstone Lane, Poh Leng Building #09-01, Singapore 328426
Time: Lunch: 3PM-10PM
Ticket pricing: Free
5. The Passion Pop-Up (22 Sept)
Support your local businesses and female entrepreneurship at this pop-up. Try out delicious treats from That Vegan Cake, juicy burgers from Hustle Co and more.
The Passion Panel, filled with names like Isabel Lee of An Acai Affair and Beckie Liu of Haikini,
will delve into how they sparked off their passion for entrepreneurship, developing it into an actual business. It’s not all work, though. Play beer pong or sign up for a HIIT session with Charity Chan, a personal trainer!
Address: 52 Craig Road, Singapore 089690
Time: 11AM – 4PM
Ticket pricing: Free
6. High School Never Ends (22 Sept)
Blast it back to your childhood or travel all the way to the present at HopHeads’ latest escapade, featuring 2000s-2018 electronic dance pop and the hottest radio hits.
Their parties are so popular that all their online tickets have been sold out. Your best bet is to head straight to the door for a ticket, then straight into the most nostalgic night of your life.
Address: 178 Clemenceau Ave, Haw Par Glass Tower B1-00, Singapore 239926
Time: 10PM – 4AM
Ticket pricing: Door tickets $20, inclusive of one drink