We’re Getting Along Just Fine

Apr 29, 2010
*Special to asia!

HuM Theatre debuts with “Rafta Rafta”, a comedy about cultural differences between two migrant families. Its artistic director, Daisy Irani, speaks to asia!.


Rafta Rafta”, a comedy by British Asian playwright Ayub Khan-Din, examines the joys and challenges of cross-cultural relations, especially of interracial marriage, as faced by an immigrant Indian family. Khan-Din’s critically acclaimed work was itself adapted from Bill Naughton’s 1963 “All in Good Time”.

“Rafta Rafta” (which means “slowly, slowly”) will soon be performed in Singapore by new theatre company HuM Theatre. asia! doorstops a very busy Daisy Irani, the company’s artistic director and also a star in the play, before opening night on April 29.


asia!: What made you choose “Rafta Rafta” as the first play that HuM Theatre will perform?

Daisy: Ayub Khan-Din's fabulous script, which won the play the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New comedy 2008. We wanted the play to reflect HuM Theatre's mantra – to entertain whilst remaining relevant to the Singapore way of life.


asia!: How, if at all, have you adapted the play to the Singapore context?

Daisy: The story is so wonderfully global, that the only re-structuring we had to accomplish was to change contextual references to reflect the Singaporean background and to put together a multi-racial cast which, again, is meant to reflect ground reality. The comedy you cannot adapt – it’s just there.


asia!: Why do you think that the topic of inter-racial marriage is still a rather taboo topic in Singapore?

Daisy: The play suggests exactly the opposite – that it’s ridiculous to think of inter-racial marriage as taboo when we have, as a human race, yet to resolve all our basic flaws, foibles and frailties that already make life complicated. That’s what’s so really funny.


The newlywed couple

The newlywed couple

Photo credit: HuM Theatre


asia!: Do you feel there are differences as to how inter-racial marriages are viewed in Britain compared with in Singapore, and if so, what are these?

Daisy: It's the same all over the world, but it is the urban young who are breaking through and teaching the rest of us that ultimately love and mutual respect overwhelm all the pettiness of socially induced differences.


asia!: Rehearsing for such a play must have been a fun thing to do. Did the cast, through the process of rehearsing, discover anything new about how inter-racial issues can crop up in their own personal lives?

Daisy: The rehearsal process has been a hoot! The Bollywood brashness of the Indians melded with the conservative cool of the Chinese – not just off-stage but on-stage. The Chinese discovered that the Indians were not the homogenous lot they thought them to be – the Indian cast is made up of a Parsi, a Punjabi, a Sindhi, a Maratha, a Coorgi, a Tamil and a Malayalee – and that all of them dance like crazy. The Indians, on the other hand, remain totally perplexed at how limited the Singaporean Chinese are in their lexicon of derogatory terms for each other. The sole Malay is just the darling of the team and totally enjoys the attention. Of course the play, through its comedic and poignant moments, has provided all of us with a perspective of how insignificant the imagined differences between races are in the general scheme of things. In fact, we have more in common in our personal life stories than divergences – we just physically don't resemble each other and the characters in the play prove that even that doesn’t matter.


The cast of Rafta Rafta

The cast of "Rafta Rafta"

asia!: Your press release states that HuM Theatre's vision is “to produce English language plays with multicultural sensibilities to reach a wider audience base, and to provide a platform that highlights the lives and experiences of the community, regardless of their ethnicity or language”. Do you feel that, to some extent, such needs have not been met in the Singapore theatre scene so far?

Daisy: Every theatre group in Singapore has its bona fide place and purpose. Our objective is to focus on building accessible theatre through entertaining storytelling. In that sense we hope to appease a growing theatre audience by adding a different slant to the variety that is already available to them.


“Rafta Rafta” will be staged from April 29 to May 2, and from May 7 to 9, at Singapore’s DBS Arts Centre. Tickets from Sistic.


clarissa tanClarissa is a journalist who focuses on travel and the arts. As a desperately hopeful author, she writes short stories and is working on a novel. Clarissa won the Spectator’s final Shiva Naipaul Memorial Prize for travel writing.

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