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Costa Coffee with Shakespeare: The Bardrista Strikes Back

Costa Coffee’s back at it again, and this time they’ve gone and given themselves an upsize to none other than the Bard himself. A nod to his 400th death anniversary, this Costa Coffee event brought local actor and director Adrian Pang, artistic and managing director of Singapore Repertory Theatre, Gaurav Kripalani, director for the British Council Singapore, Roland Davies, and an old friend, local poet Marc Nair, to weigh in on the significance of the prolific William Shakespeare some four centuries later. Needless to say, we were also accompanied by one Mr. Caffeine and his pals – some good ole’ donuts, courtesy of Costa Coffee.

The event got brewing with Marc introducing the man himself, if not in body then at least in word, with a game “Shakespeare or Modern Rap”. The audience was invited to cast a discerning eye on what could either be the words of a four-hundred-year-old playwright and poet, or a platinum record-swinging modern rap artist. We came to the conclusion that either we just really didn’t listen to enough rap, or Shakespeare, or both. It brought home that even if it doesn’t seem like it at times, the language that is today prized and lauded for its craft and style isn’t really that different from what many Singaporeans would consider the atas high-faluting Shakespearean speak. This was a point that would be iterated in refreshing ways later on in the event.

“Magical, Mysterious, Maddening”

The panel then took over with Marc fielding questions to Gaurav, Adrian, and Roland on the relevance of Shakespeare to modern life, the state of literary education in Singapore, and their own personal takes on the Bard among other things. The whole panel agreed with Adrian when he honoured Shakespeare with the words “Magical, Mysterious, and Maddening”, citing Shakespeare’s tremendous body of work and depth of insight into human behaviour. For those who find Shakespearean more maddening than magical, fear not! He admitted that even if the language drives “you round the bend sometimes, [that] discovery is a wonderful journey.”’

Reminiscing, he brought us back to SRT’s 2011 production of Macbeth, where he reportedly shed 6kg in the intense wrestling with the words of the Bard, what Gaurav wryly commented on as “the best weight loss programme”. It was getting us revved up for what is possibly SRT’s last “Shakespeare in the Park” (or at least for a few years), “Romeo and Juliet”. Sponsors, if you’re seeing this, please don’t let this spear stop shaking.

“We’re still using Shakespeare, but how many of us are still using algebra or trigonometry?”

The conversation took a serious turn when Marc questioned if “plays were meant to be performed or read?” Gaurav quickly replied that analysing a play like a textbook would make one lose any and all appreciation of what’s Shakespearean about it. Marc agreed and pointed out that it was possible in schools today to study it without ever watching the wit and the beauty of the craft realised on an actual stage, without ever getting to meet Shakespeare’s characters in the flesh and blood. Gaurav lamented, with the panel concurring, that with Literature becoming an optional subject in schools, it might herald a “lost decade”, whereby students are completely unexposed to the works of the Bard and the like. “We’re still using Shakespeare, but how many of us are still using algebra or trigonometry?”

Kathryn Finch resumed with a gear shift and a crash course in the art of coffee blending and extraction, aided by baristas Alvin and Hisyam, the Barista of the Year 2015. We were invited to taste the concentrated ristretto, extracted from premium sustainably-sourced beans, whose flavour profile morphed as we were brought through its initial taste, the savouring taste, and the aftertaste. The crash course also morphed into somewhat of a Barista Master Class with Alvin giving the low-down on the equally magical art of the alchemy chemistry of beans.

The last moments of the event were slurped down with a laugh, as Johannes Hadi and actor Jonathan Lim faced off in the mock duel of atas highbrow English Scholar vs golf-hat wearing SG Kopi Uncle. In a battle of the words that pitted Shakespeare against Singlish, the light hearted banter touched on much heavier issues, like the high-low brow divide and our colonial influences that loom in the historical background. What the conversation pointed out was invaluable – that Shakespeare himself was a “rojak” kind of guy, making up phrases and not just a few innuendos to break through that class divide of his day. Moreover, that “Shinglish”, as it was coined, wasn’t too far-fetched of an idea, as many borrowed phrases already draw heavily on Shakespearean sources. This time, we have to hand it to Costa Coffee, serving up another literary shot of Bardaccino, that’s as educational as it was exciting.

I guess what we’re trying to say here is… “Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! Blow!” from “King Lear” isn’t too far away from “WA MENG TI!!! WA MENG TI!!”  Now if I could butcher a bit of Shakespeare myself, loosely pulling from All’s Well that Ends Well:

The writer’s a beggar, now the piece is done:
All is well ended, if this news be won,
That you express content; which we will pay,
With strife to please you, day exceeding day:
Ours be your patience then, and yours our parts;
Your gentle eyes make us, and take our hearts.


Find out more about the previous edition of “Costa Coffee Presents…”!

Try out Costa Coffee’s new Costa Corta range at any Costa Coffee outlet:

Corto Classic  – is a unique combination of acidic espresso and sweet milk. Two extractions of Costa’s signature Mocha Italia blend, topped with milk that’s been steamed to perfection, exuding a wonderful silky smooth texture.

Corto Mocha – is made from two, short, five second extractions of Mocha Italia espresso, fused expertly with steamed hot chocolate to birth a coffee of pure velvety chocolate goodness.

Corto Black – is a single composition of three espressos: three short but elegant extractions of Mocha Italia espresso are used to brew a strong, smooth coffee without a hint of bitterness. This simply elegant drink is crowned with a crema top.

Corto Caramel – Beginning with Costa’s caramel sauce, two short Mocha Italia espresso shots are blended with silky steamed milk, making for one of the most luxurious of coffees.

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