Being Haresh Sharma: The Necessary Stage Celebrates Resident Playwright In New Production
The Necessary Stage celebrates Haresh Sharma’s entire body of work in a new play performed by some of their most memorable collaborators.
After celebrating their 30th Anniversary with restagings of various plays, how can The Necessary Stage not celebrate the writer himself? That’s where Being Haresh Sharma comes in, an all new production based on Haresh’s various play texts and directed by Cake Theatre’s Natalie Hennedige.
Over the last 30 years, Haresh Sharma’s profound scripts have explored the very heart of Singapore’s ongoing issues, and what it truly means to live and breathe in Singapore with equal doses of humour and heartbreak. From political detainees to Chinese MPs, teachers to Indonesian maids, Haresh’s characters speak from the very soul of the city, and have left an indelible mark on all who’ve watched them come to life at the hands of The Necessary Stage.
Being Haresh Sharma reflects upon Haresh’s entire body of work, linking and associating text to text, character to character and charts the complex journey of his mind. Performed by a medley of some of TNS’ favourite collaborators, namely Siti Khalijah Zainal, Karen Tan, Jo Kukathas, Jean Ng, Ghafir Akbar and Julius Foo, expect the unexpected as it all comes together in one exciting performance exploring the very nature of theatre itself.
Interview: Natalie Hennedige, Director of Being Haresh Sharma
We also got an interview with Being Haresh Sharma director Natalie Hennedige and talked about the play’s origins and her own personal relationship with TNS:
What prompted you to come up with Being Haresh Sharma and what does Being Haresh Sharma bring to the table beyond a compilation of his ‘greatest hits’?
In 2013, as part of a Contemporary Theatre Making module at NUS Theatre Studies, I put together a performance for the NUS students that combined several TNS plays over the years. Alvin and Haresh saw that performance and invited me to create something similar as part of the company’s 30th Anniversary celebration. I looked at all of Haresh’s published plays from the early 80s till now and selected portions, and put these segments together like pieces of a jigsaw to form a new shape.
I decided to title this new construction of the piece Being Haresh Sharma because it puts an iconic playwright in focus. You see, in looking deeply at Haresh’s writing and in the way he constructs writing, it also surfaces the manner in which TNS has constructed theatre over the years; the way they devise plays working closely with actors. The work will feature iconic TNS plays as well as some lesser known ones spanning works created in the 80s to more current pieces. I was looking at the breadth and depth of Haresh’s works, making associations, creating thematic clusters, looking at every character and creating a unique world to be inhabited by 6 performers who would embody Haresh’s words, and the spirit, humour and fire that comes with it. It makes bold, unexpected links and associations, mapping stories and characters in ways that surface the social, political and spiritual aspects of life here; bringing it all together with unexpected and exciting performance energy, sparking new ways of looking at his words and of experiencing performance and theatre.
Many of the cast members too have a deep relationship with TNS, Julius and Jean worked on some of the company’s earliest pieces, Siti and Karen have been involved in so many TNS works. We wanted a combination- some who have worked very closely with TNS and some like Jo and Ghafir who have done less with the company but have an energy and spirit that make for a dynamic ensemble.
What’s your favourite Haresh Sharma play and what’s your earliest memory of a Necessary Stage play?
I love too many of Haresh’s works to pick one. Haresh has a very distinct voice and I ‘hear’ him in all his pieces. He creates characters from all walks of life and they have perspectives different from his own. He writes with a great deal of range and explores a vast variety of pertinent themes and issues, yet something of his artistic nature is embedded in each and every work. I enjoy detecting that quality.
I saw Still Building by The Necessary Stage in 1992. It was first staged at TheatreWork’s Theatre Carnival on the Hill, and then at the Cairo International Experimental Theatre Festival. It was performed by Jean Ng, Karen Tan and Haresh Sharma at the Fort Canning Hill black box space. At the time I was a Theatre Studies & Drama student at Victoria Junior College and my lecturer wanted us to learn about theatre by crewing for shows. So my entire cohort, there were 15-20 of us of so, were tasked to crew for this festival. I was assigned to crew for Russell Heng’s Lest the Demons Get To You performed by Jeremiah Choy, but it happened to be in the same blackbox as Still Building. So I got the chance to watch it! I remember standing at the side, watching Still Building. I stood the whole time taking it in.
What does ‘being Haresh Sharma’ mean to you, personally?
TNS plays are ingrained in the artistic fabric of this land, they speak for and into this diverse city we call home. Being Haresh Sharma is about surfacing that, as well as unveiling the universality, spirituality, currentness and potency embedded in Haresh’s words.
Photo Credit: The Necessary Stage
Being Haresh Sharma plays at the Drama Centre Theatre from 29th June to 2nd July. Tickets available on SISTIC