Preview Theatre

★★★★☆ Review: We Are Like This Only 3 by HuM Theatre

Sketches that reveal the good, the bad and the funny Singaporean attitudes to foreigners.

CategoryScore (out of 10)
Direction (Daisy Irani)7
Script (Subin Subaiah)7
Performance (Daisy Irani, Subin Subaiah, Jo Tan, Hang Qian Chou)8
Set Design (Lim Keng San)7
Lighting Design (Alberta Wileo)7
Total36/50 (72%)
Final Score:★★★★☆

Now in its third edition, HuM Theatre returns once again to present their signature We Are Like This Only show, exploring issues and challenges of integration in Singapore. This time around, the subject of debate primarily surrounds new Indian expats in Singapore, and the difficulty or resistance to understanding or accepting them.

Written by Subin Subaiah and directed by Daisy Irani, We Are Like This Only 3 takes place in an almost sitcom-like set (designed by Lim Keng San), a simple but properly furnished living room belonging to characters played by Daisy and Subin, who’ve recently moved into the neighbourhood. Their otherwise calm afternoon is interrupted by the arrival of their neighbours, a married couple played by Jo Tan and Hang Qian Chou, and are about to erupt into a heated argument.

But with a little conversation, the four residents instead begin to engage in a frank discussion of race relations in Singapore, through a series of stories and sketches. What makes We Are Like This Only 3 so refreshing is how the characters feel unfiltered in their commentary, daring to speak openly and honestly about some of the ugly and politically incorrect things we say and think about those different from us, without airs.

The key to making it palatable? The humour. Utilising a combination of farce, exaggeration and wordplay, We Are Like This Only 3 brings out the hard truths of foreign and race relations in an artistic manner, making us realise how difficult integration can be through limitations foreigners face in terms of power, overwhelmingly racist and xenophobic sentiments, or misunderstandings of each other’s customs and cultures. Amidst the caricatures and stereotypes, there lies an uneasy and uncomfortable reality we both laugh at and reflect on after.

All four cast members have their own styles of comedy, yet match each other onstage in terms of energy levels and chemistry. Daisy Irani carries a certain degree of class to her characters, always ready with a sharp, witty remark or retort, or a pompousness each time she volunteers to share a ‘story she wrote’. Subin Subiah isn’t afraid to play meeker roles, from a hapless worker taken advantage of by his boss, and contrasting that with more egoistic characters, such as a successful businessman-type awkwardly trying to befriend his new assistant. In similar veins, Jo Tan transitions between annoying Karen-like roles and frowning aunties ready to pick a fight, while Hang Qian Chou plays on his Singaporean accent to amp up the frustrated but relatable Chinese everyman.

In its final segment, following a catchy “Tea Party Rap” number (written by Preetipls) that conveniently recaps most of the sketches, We Are Like This Only 3 transitions into a forum theatre style work that invites audience members to respond and intervene in a selected scene. This is perhaps the most difficult segment to control, as it is dependent on the audience each night, and in our performance, featured some particularly rowdy audience members who were uncooperative or clearly trying to cause trouble.

What that results in is a rather hasty response by the facilitators to try and move the discussion forward. While there were some insightful comments by some members (such as how perhaps members of the same race could see themselves as leaders and guides to new citizens), but with a majority of the audience seemingly only here for the jokes, that final message ends up being more diluted and oversimplified, with some audience members suggesting that people are simply being too sensitive and should just feel their feelings and say what they want without consequence.

If anything, We Are Like This Only 3 detaches itself from passing any kind of final judgment, and instead focuses on laying bare the circumstances of race relations in our country, and the headspace we’re in when confronted with such issues. Rooted in undeniable reality, We Are Like This Only 3 mixes entertainment with education, and certainly by the end of it, prompts willing audience members to think harder and reflect on how we can influence our own and others’ behaviours and biases, and perhaps, move one step closer towards a more harmonious Singapore.

We Are Like This Only 3 plays from 20th to 30th April 2023 at the Drama Centre Black Box. Tickets available from Peatix

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