Preview: Fundamentally Happy by Nine Years Theatre

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Award winning and critically acclaimed Nine Years Theatre opens their 2017 season with a production of Fundamentally Happy, Haresh Sharma’s Life! Theatre Award winning script (Best Production, Best Script 2007) first staged by The Necessary Stage.

Fundamentally Happy is a two character play that follows 30 year old Eric (Timothy Wan) as he revisits his childhood neighbour Habiba (Lok Meng Chue), as the place he spent many happy afternoons gives way to horrifying repressed memories and dark secrets are revealed.

This production will mark the first time Fundamentally Happy is staged in Mandarin, and the play will be translated and directed by multiple Best Director award winner Nelson Chia, and the first time Nine Years Theatre will be staging a local play. The play will also mark the opening of the Esplanades’ 2017 season of The Studios, and promises to deliver a fascinating and thought-provoking discourse on how one person’s happiness can come at the expense of someone else’s. Rated R18 for paedophillic themes.

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We also talked to director and translator Nelson Chia on adapting Fundamentally Happy from English to Mandarin! Check out our brief interview below

1. This is the first time Nine Years Theatre has adapted a local script, why choose Fundamentally Happy

Nelson: I was interested in this play because of its multiple layers of tensions- cultural, linguistic, religious, sexual, social and personal. In this play, Haresh had written two characters that possessed very complex sentiments due to their bonds and differences at these various levels of tensions.

2. How does the play’s meaning change, considering that Haresh Sharma’s script originally had Habiba played by Aidli ‘Alin’ Mosbit and will now be played by Lok Meng Chue, changing the racial makeup of the play? 

Nelson: One of the challenges for us was to bring forth the play’s qualities in a completely different language. Although we had learnt from NYT’s experiences in translated works that they were never just about the languages, we had an obvious linguistic situation where we had to first create a world that seemed reasonable for the two characters to speak to each other in Mandarin (the situation and the task become more complex for a play written in the Singapore context than for western plays, but that’s a topic for a another time). In the end, I had decided to adapt the character of Habiba, making her a Chinese woman who had married a Malay Muslim man. In this way, not only might the two speak in Mandarin, the relationship between them would take on new dynamics and complexities as Habiba negotiated between two cultures and languages.

3. What does being fundamentally happy mean to you? 

Nelson: How do we find Happiness? Where can we find it? I believe that rather than hoping to find Happiness by looking outside of us, Happiness actually resides within yourself, it is a person’s  inner state of mind. It is more than saying that Happiness is what you make of it and not what others make of you. In fact, to find Happiness, you have to first find yourself.

Fundamentally Happy (R18) plays as part of the Esplanades’ The Studios season 2017 from 16-19 March at the Esplanade Theatre Studio. Tickets available from SISTIC

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