Indian theatre buffs will be spoilt for choice this weekend, as two new productions by home-grown theatre outfits debut at the same time.
Tara is a piece performed in English that deals with the lives of a pair of conjoined twins after their separation surgery at birth. Put on by the veteran Ravindran Drama Group, it opens today at 8pm at the Drama Centre Black Box in the National Library building in Victoria Street.
Simultaneously, Magudi, a light-hearted Tamil musical adaptation of the Pied Piper Of Hamlin, will play at the Goodman Arts Centre. The new company staging it, 2Tango Dazzle, is helmed by Karthikeyan Somasundram and Sashirekka Rountan, who have been in Indian theatre for more than 10 years.
The directors of both companies say their mission is the same: to deliver quality Indian- themed theatre to a wider audience.
Tara is the first full-length English play in a series launched by the Ravindran Drama Group in a bid to stage more female-centric plays, says managing director T Nakulan.
"We've been primarily a Tamil theatre group so far, but the face of the Indian community is changing with more expatriates and new citizens coming in. We want our productions to be more mainstream, so we can bring this cultural product to our friends of other races," he adds.
It was a fortuitous twist then that the play's director, Mayura Baweja, received casting applications from non-Indian actors.
She explains: "The play deals with issues that progeny from a mixed marriage face. In fact, after the first rehearsal, we started talking about our own backgrounds. The actors are of varied descent - we have Sharon Frese, who is British Afro- Caribbean. Krissy Jesudason's mum is from the Philippines, but she is Singaporean. So there was plenty of dialogue about negotiating identity."
Actress Tyen Fong, 19, who is of Chinese, Jewish and Malay descent and is playing nosy neighbour Ruby in the show, says: "I think the inter-cultural approach, coupled with how Mayura incorporated our personalities into our characters, made it more layered."
Rountan, who is directing Magudi, is confident that her play, which has no English surtitles, can bridge the language gap and strike a chord in viewers.
"We also localised the play by touching on issues such as the fight against dengue, and universal themes such as friendship and teamwork," she says. The play, which received support from agencies such as the People's Association and the National Environment Agency, will be staged at community clubs in Toa Payoh and Jurong later in the month, following its opening night.
A new entrant on the scene, 2Tango Dazzle was set up last June and has since staged two productions, including an adaptation of Quentin Tarantino's film, Reservoir Dogs (1992), about a diamond heist. Both were well-received, according to Rountan.
"One of our challenges is that we are very small. We've had to recycle resources, and as a team we had to double up in our roles and work longer hours," says Somasundram, who is 2Tango Dazzle's company director.
Veteran theatre practitioner G. Selvanathan, who heads Indian theatre stalwart Avant Theatre, believes that more offerings are healthy for the scene. His company is in the midst of preparations for Quarters, a play about life in Singapore in the 1970s, to be staged in June.
"Things are getting vibrant, and there are more shows with Western influences now. It's also easier to watch shows, thanks to surtitles. But it's important to draw audiences based on quality," he says.
Regular theatregoer Sandra Ganapragasam, 26, a civil servant, agrees there is more buzz now. She intends to catch Magudi this weekend.
She says: "I enjoyed 2Tango Dazzle's previous productions, especially their heist comedy. It was funny and I was taken with one of the actors."