Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Merchant of Venice

I have never read or watch Shakespeare. Neither do my kids. Mr O claimed he has read The Merchant of Venice many many years ago. Anyway, for most of us it was our first Shakespeare experience. I have to google and read the story online. Disclaimer; Most of the info on the story comes from wikipedia. And bit and pieces from other links too. There's no way a "Bard noob" like me can understand the whole story from 1st viewing ;-)
The Histrionia Acting Troupe (HAT) is a group of homeschooling kids and this is their first play.The show was at PJ Live Arts.
They began the story by telling us that they will skip the Lorenzo-Jessica part because it's just too long and there's too much kissing. OK ;-)

The story begins with Bassanio who wishes to marry the beautiful and wealthy heiress Portia of Belmont. He approached his friend Antonio to borrow money. He need three thousand ducats to subsidise his expenditures as a suitor. Antonio agrees, but he's short of cash as his ships and merchandise are at sea. So he promises to cover a bond if Bassanio can find a lender.
So Bassanio turns to the Jewish moneylender Shylock and names Antonio as the loan's guarantor. I have to say the guy who played Shylock was really2 good. Medina said; He must be crazily angry ;-)
Portia and her confidante, Nerissa. 
Portia cannot choose her own husband. Her father left a will stipulating each of her suitors must choose correctly from one of three caskets – one each of gold, silver and lead. If he picks the right casket, he gets Portia.

Shylock, who hates Antonio because of his anti-Judaism and Antonio's customary refusal to borrow or lend money with interest was reluctant at first. But finally agrees to lend Antonio the sum without interest upon the condition that if Antonio is unable to repay it at the specified date, he may take a pound of Antonio's flesh. 
At this point, Medina was hungry and I went out to find food for Little Missy. So I missed the part where the first 2 suitors made their choice. Prince of Morroco & Prince of  Arragon. The last to choose was Bassanio, who chooses the lead casket, winning Portia's hand.
Portia is so happy that she got to marry Bassanio.
Portia and Bassanio marry. And Gratiano asked for permission to marry Nerissa. So everybody is lovey dovey & live happily. For a while at least.
Then they received news that Antonio's ships are reported lost at sea. This leaves him unable to return the loan taken from Shylock. So Bassanio and Gratiano had to leave for Venice to settle the issue. The plan is to offer double the money to Shylock. BTW, it's Portia's money :P

And unknown to Bassanio and Gratiano, Portia has sent her servant, Balthazar, to seek the counsel of Portia's cousin, Bellario, a lawyer to help her husband get out of trouble. Haissshhh.....u see? Even Shakespeare knows a man need a woman to save his life ;-)

In the court of the Duke of Venice. 
Shylock refuses Bassanio's offer of 6,000 ducats, twice the amount of the loan. He demands his pound of flesh from Antonio.
Portia disguised as Balthazar. 
She repeatedly asks Shylock to show mercy advising him that mercy "is twice blest: It blesseth him that gives and him that takes."
However, Shylock adamantly refuses any compensations and insists on the pound of flesh.
The quibble. Portia saves Antonio by pointing out that the agreement called for a pound of flesh, but no blood, and therefore Shylock can collect only if he sheds no blood.

As the court grants Shylock his bond and Antonio prepares for Shylock's knife, Portia points out that the contract only allows Shylock to remove the flesh, not the "blood", of Antonio. Thus, if Shylock were to shed any drop of Antonio's blood, his "lands and goods" would be forfeited. And he must cut precisely one pound of flesh, no more, no less.

"If the scale do turn, in the estimation of a hair, Thou diest and all thy goods are confiscated."
Defeated, Shylock conceded. And Antonio's life is spared. 

As a token of gratitude for saving him and Antonio, Bassanio who does not recognise his disguised wife offers to give a present to the lawyer. First she declines, but after he insists, Portia requests his ring. Errrkkk... BTW he has promised his wife never to lose, sell or give the ring. And yet, under pressure, he gave in. Can u believe it?? Haisshhhh...men!! ;-)

Portia and Nerissa then rushes back. To make sure they reach Belmont before the guys do.
Once the guys reach Belmont, Portia and Nerissa asked about the missing ring. This scene was quite funny actually. They pretend to accuse their husbands of infidelity before revealing they were really the lawyer and his clerk in disguise. Eventually, Antonio learns from Portia that three of his ships were not stranded and have returned safely after all. It was a very good performance by the homeschoolers.

The cast.
The one who surprisingly enjoyed her first Shakespeare play.

Actually all the kids enjoyed the play very2 much. It was a good exposure to Shakespeare.

Luqman & Hajar told me the homeschoolers' play made their annual school play looked so inferior. Despite much2 lesser props. And definitely much2 lesser production cost. Probably just a fraction of what it cost to produce their school play. I have not actually watched any of their school play. But I enjoy this play very much. Kudos Histrionia Acting Troupe!! We definitely look forward for more :-)

Duyong Old Fort. And tracing family roots.

My late MIL's family root can be traced back starting in Duyong Island, Terengganu. Mr O's great great great great grandfather is Tok Sheikh Duyong, a highly respected Muslim scholar and the founder of the island. OK, to be precise.... I dunno how many great great great actually. But I know their ancestors can be traced back to the man.
Anyway, some interesting info that I got from here. 

Their ancestors migrated from Champa to Pattani, in present-day Thailand, some time in the late 18th century. They were ethnic Chinese who converted to Islam. When Malay rule of Pattani came to an end in 1808, many Muslims moved south to Kelantan and Terengganu, including the then six-year-old Tok Sheikh Duyong with his father, a Muslim scholar and teacher.

The family settled on Pulau Duyong Kecil, on the estuary of Sungai Terengganu, where Tok Sheikh Duyong's father provided religious teaching. This was followed by Tok Sheikh Duyong, who became such a famous Muslim scholar, that Pulau Duyong Kecil became a centre of Islamic education, and was known as the "Tongue of Terengganu".

And if u still wonder why my kids (and most of Mr O's clan) look so Chinese or Siamese, reading their family history will help u understand why. And yes, I think that Siamese Chinese gene is mighty strong.
Duyong Old Fort @Kota Lama Duyong was built during 1919 and 1920 by Dato Biji Sura (Nik Mohamad Hitam) who was the great grandson of Tok Sheikh Duyong. 
Dato Biji Sura followed in the footsteps of his great grandfather Tok Sheikh Duyong. He was involved in both religious as well as administrative matters, and held three prominent positions: as a member of the Council of Ministers, Commissioner for Religious Affairs, and judge of the Syariah Court. He was married four times and fathered a total of 18 children. He died of fever in 1943 during the fasting month of Ramadhan.

I don't really know how many Dato Biji Sura were around. I used to think Dato Biji Sura was Mr O's grandfather coz that's how the uncles and the aunties refer to his late grandfather. Then I figured out there were many more Dato Biji Sura. It can be confusing as they were all referred as DBS. I think it's a title that is still given out until today.

After his death, the house slowly descended into disrepair. It was already in a dilapidated state when the massive flood of 1986 destroyed what was left of it. In the late 1990's, a committee was formed to restore the building. It received the blessing of Dato Biji Sura's descendants to carry out the job.
Despite its name, Old Fort Duyong was not a military fort. It was actually a residence. And a place where lots of students come to study the religion.
It's currently under the care of Terengganu State Museum. Entrance is FOC.
The reconstructed house is a mish-mash of architectural styles including Islamic, Chinese and Western. It resembles a traditional Malay palace but the design of the pillars and walls shows strong Corinthian and Egyptian influences. It boasts 9 roofs that cover several interconnected parts of the buildings.
Pictures of the restoration & reconstruction work in the ground floor.
Intricate carvings on the verandah gives the building the feel & look of several types of traditional Terengganu Malay homes known as "Bujang Berepeleh", "Lima Bungkus" and "Potong Belanda".


There are four entrances, for use by different classes of people. The main entrance is reserved for high-ranking officers. Womenfolk as well as relatives use the back entrance. Neighbours and peddlars use the western side entrance, while village folks use the eastern side entrance.
I love the windows ;-)

Mr O & the museum man. Tracing his family roots.
The man told us the plaster was a mix of clay, sand, eggs, honey and limestone (from cockle shells). There was no cement at that time. But it's definitely better than cement.
Despite its age, the white walls hardly showed any sign of wear. My kids were wondering...what happened to all the egg yolks?? 
A Cantonese sculptor from Singapore was hired to work on the masonry, arcades, columns and walls. Which explained the Corinthian & Egyptian influences on the designs.

Inside the house, there were some exhibitions on artifacts and things related to Duyong Island..



Inside of the house. There were lots of long corridors.


The kitchen area.
Room adjoining the kitchen. Pantry??
Outside the kitchen.

We learned that students those days will start their day with lifting water from the wells in the kitchen area to the wells in the front yard. Once the chore is done, they will begin their religious studies. They must work to earn knowledge. That is their "payment" to the teacher. Not fast easy cash from the parent's pocket like kids nowadays ;-)
 Duyong Island is also famous for boat building. We went here.
 But there was nobody there. Only boats. And some animals.
Not sure whether the place was closed for lunch or closed for the day as it was also the 6th day of Raya. Apparently, some people in Terengganu celebrate the day. Hopefully better luck next time.