We Are Like This Only! is HuM Theatreʼs new play on why Singaporean Indians canʼt figure each other out. It is a forum theatre treatment of the integration issues rattling the Indian diaspora. The divide between the “local” Indians and the “Indian” Indians seems to be widening on the back of seemingly justified perceptions of each other, depending on whose point of view you take. Daisy Irani, the director of the play answers some of the questions related to this interesting performance.
Why did We Are Like This Only! interest you as a director?
Pretty simple. The issue of integration is important to all Singaporeans. Indians here are particularly sensitive to the incoming stream of new Indian immigrants coming in to the country. There are truths and misconceptions, in equal measure, flying around in the blogosphere and in the social circuits which require airing in the theatre space. There is drama in conflict, there is humour in controversy and there is always the possibility of progress in honest debate.
For those that are unfamiliar with this play, could you tell us about the show?
This is a variation of forum theatre. The play is a set of sketches portraying the wild perceptions Indians have of each other, the stereotyping of the characters and sometimes the ridiculousness of the dis-enchantments they have with each other. It’s all treated with a sense of comedy without sacrificing the seriousness of the matter. Four actors play out a varied set of roles including a security guard, a business man, a Tamil teacher, a banker’s wife, a doctor, a FTI and more– all Indians, all opinionated, all a bit crazy. Because we are like this only! The entertainment does not end with the performance of the actors. It’s then that the audience gets into the act and offers counsel to the characters, questions them, relates their own experiences/ anecdotes and debates the issues. It’s fun but also healing.
Could you tell us more about HuM Theatre?
HuM Theatre has had a run of three very well received productions — Rafta Rafta, Prisoner of Mumbai Mansion and The Kanjoos – which accounted for four nominations for the Life Theatre Awards and one win. The plays were all devised to be of relevance to Singapore with multi-racial casts and with hugely entertaining content. Our philosophy is to tell a story but tell it in a way that appeals to everybody who buys a ticket.
Who is your target audience for this play, and what would you wish the audience to take away with them?
Given the topicality of it, a play dealing with integration should be an automatic invitation to anyone who resides in Singapore or plans to do so. Because the issues are very directly pointed at the Indian diaspora we would expect every Indian in the country to be there – seriously! Because the new Indians are here and they are not going away and the legacy Indians will always be around so we better start sorting out our differences or at least agreeing to accept them. We are a small section of the Singaporean population and it makes no sense for us to be at odds with each other. ‘We Are Like This Only” offers a a fun way to kick off the process.
Could you comment on the cast of We’re Like This Only! ?
Very appropriately we have a very diverse cast — a Parsi, a Sindhi, a Tamil and a Punjabi. Three of them are second generation Singaporeans. They have the depth of experience and maturity to tackle the subject matter and interact with the audience.
Is this there something you are especially excited about, in this show coming together?
Forum Theatre is in itself exciting because we don’t know what to expect from the audience. That’s the fun part. The socio-cultural-political issues of integration are complex but we can treat them with a touch of comedy and hope like hell that the audience pick up the baton and run with it.