Sharul Channa lets her acid humour take a backseat to this timely character drama about the underclass of Singapore.
Better known for her sharp tongue and razor wit, stand up comedian Sharul Channa has lately, been delving into a somewhat different brand of performance lately, exploring her actor side with character work that’s seen her transform into women of all backgrounds. In the International Women’s Day themed Crazy Poor Sita, Sharul embodies the eponymous Sita (inspired by real life people she conducted interviews with), a member of Singapore’s underclass who’s here to educate audiences about what it’s really like to live as a poor person in the metropolis.
Equipped with few props and a simple stage set-up, Crazy Poor Sita feels almost like a performance-lecture as Sita stands in front of us, whiteboard at the ready. There’s something powerful about Sharul’s presence that draws us right in, making us feel completely enraptured by her performance, the Drama Centre Black Box transforming into the intimate space of Sita’s rental apartment living room as she finds a point of connection with every audience member, reeling us in with her words and persona.
Sita is quick to dispel some of the biggest myths of living as a poor person, such as how not all poor people are dressed in rags and don’t bathe. Certainly, they form a small part of the poor in Singapore, but most people choose not to come across as poor, hiding it under clean clothes and a forced smile. Explaining the presence of the whiteboard, it turns out that Sita, due to her inability to afford handphones for her children (busy at her mother’s place), she relies instead on the old school method of teaching via whiteboard. She goes on to explain the nitty gritty details about her life, explaining the amount she earns and how she has to budget properly, or even having the fortune to have come across a discarded memory foam mattress in perfectly good condition in the trash, thrown away by a Chinese family after a death in the family (‘Sometimes, dead people are better than live ones,” Sita quips).
Sita never leaves the audience out, engaging us and asking them about some of their preconceived notions about the homeless, be it blaming their situation on being uneducated or lazy, and countering those points with a well-researched argument about the difficulties of even applying for a rental flat, with few people available or willing to help her out as she struggles mostly on her own to get back on her own feet. Most of these lines are drawn from reality, and we learn about the various schemes available to help the poor (and that the poor should use), and it’s not long before we understand the sheer amount of hardship the poor go through in Singapore, and how these stories, far too often, go ignored, with the privileged pretending none of it really exists.
What Crazy Poor Sita does then is an entertaining and educational form of awareness of this oft forgotten sector of our society, in its relentless urge to progress and make headway into the future, leaving the ‘crazy poor’ behind. It’s a show that encourages those with the means to to lend a helping hand to those who need it, and remember that a little empathy, can sometimes go a long way, if only we stopped to listen and understand the plight of those around us.
Performance attended 10/3/19 (3pm)
Crazy Poor Sita played at the Drama Centre Black Box from 8th – 10th March 2019.