Reflecting on tolerance through religion and lifestyle
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Reflecting on tolerance through religion and lifestyle

Buds Theatre Company from Singapore performed at the Experimental Theatre Hall of the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy on the inaugural day of the 1st Dhaka International Theatre Fest on May 21. The troupe performed their play “Shades”, which received plaudits from theatre activists in Bangladesh.

The ITI Theatre Bulletin cited Ramendu Majumdar, President of ITI Worldwide, commenting on the performance of the troupe as “powerful”.

“The actors have addressed a very controversial social issue of the contemporary time: a conflict between religious dogma and ‘modernity’. I really enjoyed the show,” he said.

Theatre personality and Director General of Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy, Liaquat Ali Lucky said, “None of the actors fumbled even once though the play streamed with words. The skilled actor of the troupe elegantly communicated with the Bangladeshi audience, though the language of the play was English. And the presentation was also very simple but effective.”

According to Israfil Shaheen, a teacher of the Department of Theatre of Dhaka University, the play dealt with very relevant social issues. He also appreciated the acting quality of the performers. However, he is a bit critical about the directorial composition. “Characterisation could be multilayered to address such a complex issue,” he told the Bulletin.

As Claire Devine, Artistic Director of the Buds Theatre Company had explained earlier, Shades is a simple love story with “controversial undertones based on cultural and religious identity”, naturalistically produced and adapted slightly in the realm of the local context of Singapore.

Devine described that the play centres on a Muslim girl in Singapore, who although hails from a conservative family, works for an event management firm and is rather liberal in her lifestyle. She meets a Muslim boy and they fall in love. Problems arise when the conservative Muslim family of the boy finds out that the girl shares a house with her best friend Zayn, a homosexual male, and his partner.

“There is a villain in our play, who shows that he is extremely religious, but beneath all that he really is a sexual predator who wants to take advantage of the girl in the story,” shared Devine.

The play thus shows a contrast between religious dogmas and the adverse impact of globalisation on the individuals in Singapore, which is one of the fastest growing economy and the most globalised country.

Devine addressed the fact that such an issue did raise controversies initially in Singapore. “We had to have over a 100 meetings with various bodies explaining our script and the message we are trying to portray. We had to hire a religious adviser also as we knew that we have to tread very carefully,” she said.

Due to production of such scripts, Buds Theatre Company is known as a “controversial theatre company” in Singapore, said Devine. “Through our play, we focussed on the Malay community in Singapore which is considered a minority amongst a major Chinese population. Also, we reflected on the tolerance in religion as Zayn, the homosexual boy in the play, is actually the one who recites verses from the Quran to signify the tolerance Islam preaches,” she said.

Devine, who hails from the United Kingdom and studied at top drama schools there, came to Singapore around 15 years ago as a theatre educator.

“Around 10 years back, we initiated a free youth theatre called Buds Youth Theatre. Currently, we have two other concerns including Buds Theatre and Buds Playhouse,” she added.

Devine shared that Buds would want to visit Bangladesh again if given the opportunity. “We would want to return for the next fest and take part in workshops if possible. It would be great if Buds Theatre can act as a bridge between theatre activists in Singapore and Bangladesh,” she concluded.