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We Are Like This Only!

February 27, 2013
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WeAreLikeThisOnly1Event: “We Are Like This Only!” by HuM Theatre
Venue: Goodman Arts Centre Black Box
Run: 26th Feb – 3rd Mar 2013

Rattle and HuM

It’s been awhile since I was back at the review desk.

Apologies for that.

My first review of the year concerns HuM Theatre’s “We Are Like This Only!” – its first foray into the realm of forum theatre, after staging well-received plays in each of the past three years in the form of “Rafta Rafta” (2010), “Prisoner of Mumbai Mansion” (2011) and “The Kanjoos” (2012).

It is written by Gauri Gupta and directed by the ever-lovable Daisy Irani, and stars the foursome of Daisy, Rishi Budhrani, Sharul Channa and Sivakumar Palakrishnan.

Daisy’s husband, the irrepressible and incredibly gifted Subin Subaiah dons the role of moderator in this exercise and conducts the pre-show and post-show proceedings.

“We Are Like This Only!” tackles the issue of integration specifically as it pertains to the Indian diaspora here in Singapore, what with the notion of the “new Indians” from India versus the incumbent “old Indians” who were born and bred in Singapore.

And while this issue has been around for years, the timing of this play couldn’t have come at a more poignant time, especially so after the recent furore concerning the hot-button Population White Paper and the unfortunate anti-immigrant sentiments that were subsequently generated as a result.

So in many ways you could view “We Are Like This Only!” as a microcosm of the current Singapore zeitgeist, even though it certainly opened my eyes to this particular divide between the “new” and “old” Indians in Singapore which I was hitherto highly unfamiliar with.

The main bulk of the show is an hour-long series of loosely-related skits, whereby the four actors play a variety of roles while exploring the central theme of Indian integration.

Some portray “old Indians” and some portray “new Indians”, who may sometimes be perceived in some quarters as loud, brash and arrogant.

The writer employs the device of the “invisible interviewer” throughout the skits so as to bring out the innermost sentiments of the characters, and it is through these ruminations that the heart of the issues are truly explored and brought to light.

It goes without saying that many of the skits’ subject matter and references clearly cater to an Indian audience, what with an entire skit poking fun at the idiosyncrasies of the game of cricket, or the heavy use of Indian colloquialism and in-jokes, but ultimately even for a non-Indian viewer there is plenty to learn about with regards to this fascinating divide.

The cast of four actors were all highly competent and entertaining to watch, and while Sivakumar Palakrishnan stood out for me in the skits portion of the show, I thought Sharul Channa was in her element especially in the improvisational segment at the end of the show.

The very essence of forum theatre is in audience participation, and it was enlightening to hear some highly-spirited debate amongst the audience members – comprising both “new” and “old” Indians – during the interactive segment at the end of the show.

We had a thorough discussion on the distinctively Indian concept of “jugaad” (meaning innovative problem solving), the prickly issue of immigrant children having to serve NS, as well as a frank examination on whether purely economic contribution by immigrants is deemed adequate consideration for assimilation.

HuM Theatre does not purport to provide easy answers to any these issues, but if anything, it has certainly spelt these questions out clearly and placed them starkly in front of us, forcing us to take a long hard look at them.

And what better time to do so, for we know that the way things are going, these provocative questions will not only not go away any time soon, but will only grow larger and larger as time goes by.

Because it’s like this only.

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