Arts

The Necessary Stage celebrates 30 years with production named after its long-time playwright

The Necessary Stage celebrates 30 years with production named after its long-time playwright
Being Haresh Sharma is produced by Cake Theatrical Productions in collaboration with The Necessary Stage where Sharma has been resident playwright since 1990. Photo: DLSB with bgt studio
Published: 6:00 PM, June 17, 2017
Updated: 6:05 PM, June 17, 2017

SINGAPORE — This year looks set to be a blockbuster year for The Necessary Stage (TNS) and its long-time playwright Haresh Sharma.

TNS celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. And after 27 years as TNS’ resident playwright, Haresh is so much a part of the theatre company that it will be presenting a production called Being Haresh Sharma as part of its anniversary celebrations, in collaboration with Singapore-based theatre company Cake Theatrical Productions.

Sharma, who is a Cultural Medallion recipient, will also be making his directing debut later in the year.

Cake’s artistic director Natalie Hennedige said: “TNS plays are ingrained into 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, relevance and potency embedded in Haresh’s words.”

The idea for the play Being Haresh Sharma first arose in 2013 when Sharma and TNS’ artistic director Alvin Tan saw a performance Hennedige put together with graduating students from the National University of Singapore’s Theatre Studies department which combined several TNS plays from over the years.

The duo liked it so much, they invited her to create something similar for TNS’ anniversary.

Sharma said: “We liked how she used the different textual elements to combine it with the Cake aesthetic and all of the students.”

According to Hennedige, the anniversary version will “feature iconic TNS plays as well as some lesser known ones spanning works created in the 80s to more current pieces”.

She added that the play will look deeply at “Haresh’s writing and in the way he constructs writing” and “the manner in which TNS has constructed theatre over the years and the way they devise plays working closely with actors”.

The title of the play is “cringeworthy”, said Sharma, who objected to the title of the play.

However, Hennedige who is directing the play, said she decided to title this “new construction of the piece” as such “because it puts an iconic playwright in focus”.

Nonetheless, Sharma, who has written more than 100 plays that have been staged in over 20 cities, described having his plays used as material in such a way as “beyond excitement”.

“When you’re writing all these years, you’re just writing because you’re creating this work. You never think what your writing is going to have a long shelf life, especially in Singapore,” he said.

The production which will run from June 29 to July 2 at the Drama Centre Theatre involves an ensemble cast who are familiar with both TNS and Sharma to varying degrees.

“Many of the cast members have a deep relationship with TNS - Julius Foo and Jean Ng worked on some of the company’s earliest pieces, Siti Khalijah Zainal and Karen Tan have been involved in so many TNS works,” said Hennedige.

“We wanted a combination – some who have worked very closely with TNS and some like Jo Kukathas and Ghafir Akbar who have done less with the company but have an energy and spirit that make for a dynamic ensemble,” She added.

And when the curtains come down on Being Haresh Sharma, the critically acclaimed playwright will make his directing debut in August with up-and-coming playwright Nabilah Said’s play Drip.

The spotlight on the critically acclaimed playwright does not end in July but continues with his directorial debut for up and coming playwright Nabilah Said’s play Drip later in August.

It will be produced by The Orange Production, TNS’ new exploratory platform where the company collaborates with new artists on smaller works. The inaugural edition this year will be a double-bill featuring Said’s Drip, together with Whale Fall, a new play by Faith Ng.

According to Sharma, he had not planned to direct the play at first. But, when TNS decided to do a double bill, in order to keep the two plays Drip and Whale Fall produced in-house, Sharma offered to direct Drip as Tan is directing Whale Fall.

Sharma believes there is a growing appetite for theatre productions in Singapore. “Theatre if done well, and people have grown up feeling theatre is part of their lives, they will still want to go and watch (theatre productions) when they are older,” he said.

Drip and Whale Fall run from August 10 to 13 2017 at The Necessary Stage Black Box Theatre. For more information, visit www.necessary.org.

Being Haresh Sharma runs from June 29 to July 2 2017 at Drama Centre Theatre. Tickets available on Sistic.