This November, The Necessary Stage restages its critically acclaimed play, Gemuk Girls. We speak to playwright, Haresh Sharma, about this meaty drama.
By Penny K
With the return of the critically acclaimed play Gemuk Girls this November, there’s more to look forward to at the end of the year!
Gemuk Girls is the story of an unlikely mother-daughter pair. Kartini is loud and overbearing while her daughter, Juliana, is straitlaced and on the verge of entering politics. The dynamic duo’s lives are thrown into turmoil when they receive shocking news about Kartiniʼs father, who had been arrested and detained during the 1960s. Will they keep it together or fall apart; can they survive the struggle to reconcile the past with the present?
To get better acquainted with Gemuk Girls we asked playright Haresh Sharma a few questions about this bold production that tackles some weighty issues.
PD: What inspired you to write Gemuk Girls?
HS: I wanted to write a play that looked at the issues surrounding detention without trial. The play is about a man who in the 1960s is detained, and how that detention affects his family in present-day Singapore. The process of creating the play was also inspiring because Alvin Tan [director] and I did a lot of research together, we created scenarios for the actors to improvise and generate material for the play, and we had the opportunity to interview past detainees.
PD: Why the title Gemuk Girls?
HS: The ‘gemuk girls’ [or ‘fat girls’] in the title refer to the mother-daughter pairing of Kartini and Juliana. They are both ‘plus-sized’ and have a very close relationship and a strong bond. Both see themselves as very progressive and liberal-minded. However, when they discover that Kartini’s father was once a political detainee their relationship is tested, and so is their ‘gemuk girls’ ideology.
PD: How has it been working with the cast – Aidli Mosbit (Kartini), Najib Soiman (Marzuki) and Siti Khalijah (Juliana)?
HS: It’s been amazing. I’ve known Aidli since she was 19, when she acted in the original staging of Off Centre. She has since developed into one of the most powerful actors on the Singapore stage today. Najib is fearless as an actor. His performance of Marzuki is visceral and at times heart-wrenching. Siti K is truly a joy to work with. She’s the best young actor around, and she’s a chameleon – she transforms with every role she plays.
PD: We read in an interview you did that Gemuk Girls is one of your favourite works, is it because it has garnered good reviews or has it got to do with something closer to the heart?
HS: Gemuk Girls has that special factor for me because it had a fulfilling creative process and a very meaningful and impactful performance. I’m also happy that the play continues to have a life of its own in Trilogy, a collection of 3 award-winning plays published by The Necessary Stage.
PD: Will the play’s second run differ from its first?
HS: We were very happy with the first staging and have decided not to make any changes. The Necessary Stage decided to restage Gemuk Girls because it was sold out in its original run in 2008 and was very well-received when it toured to Kuala Lumpur. We have since received many requests to bring the play back hence this restaging.
PD: Name three reasons why people must not miss Gemuk Girls this time around?
HS: The three actors are reasons enough to watch this play. But I also hope people will come because they want to engage with theatre that is not only political but also personal; theatre that touches the mind and the heart.
(Recommended for 16 and above – Mature themes)
Written by Haresh Sharma
Directed by Alvin Tan
Featuring the original cast – Aidli ‘Alin’ Mosbit, Najib Soiman and Siti Khalijah
9 – 20 Nov. The Necessary Stage Black Box, 278 Marine Parade Road, #B1-02 Marine Parade Community Building.
$30 | $22* *Concession for students, senior citizens and NSF. Tickets are available from 10 Aug at all SISTIC authorised agents, via the hotline at 6348 5555, online at www.sistic.com and at iNETS Mobile.
For more information, visit www.necessary.org
All images courtesy of The Necessary Stage.