AWARD-winning playwright Ashwin Singh will bring a new production to the stage next week in the form of what’s being described as an “entertainment tour de force”.
Durban last enjoyed one of Singh’s productions with the staging of his comedy Marital Blitz last year. That show has been selected for the Playhouse Company’s 2012 New Stages Festival and will run at the Playhouse next month. It will also tour Pietermaritzburg, Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg in the coming weeks, and is also set to tour India later this year.
We caught up with Singh to find our more about his new production, Popcom, and to suss out if the hit drama writer and performer has moved on from the genre – Popcom marking his second comedic production.
Over the past few years Singh has penned hit productions like To House (an award-winning play that revolves around the conflicts and connections between five diverse characters living in a typical sectional title development in a middle-class Durban suburb); Duped (yet to be staged); Shooting (about an unsung Indian football hero and which ran last year at the National Arts Fest in Grahamstown); Spice ‘n Stuff (highlighting how crime affects the trading communities of areas such as the Grey Street precinct) and Reoca Light (a one-hander set to be stage later this year).
To House was published in the anthology New South African Plays by UK publishers Aurora Metro Publications Ltd in 2006; Spice ‘n Stuff will be published in the Catalina Collection, due for release shortly; Singh’s personal collection of four of his plays, namely To House, Duped, Spice ‘n Stuff and Reoca Light is being considered for publication as an individual anthology at the moment by Aurora in the UK. His plays have also had great success with the Pansa Playwriting Festival (the country’s foremost playwriting contest), where To House was a finalist in 2003, Duped in 2005, and Reoca Light this year.
The playwright – who is highly respected for his frank dramas and dramedies tapping into the issues that boil under the surface of culture in South Africa, particularly those of previously disadvantaged communities – has assured us that he has not turned completely to comedy.
“I see myself coming to a point where besides the theatre and literary angle of my career, I want to also branch out into comedy. Partly because I enjoy it and partly because of the commercial aspect. So I’m not moving in another direction but I am branching out into another area of entertainment. I also want to make myself more accessible to a broader audience and I believe comedy can do that.”
Popcom is a comedic entertainment showcase featuring singing, rapping, dancing and theatrical satire and comedy from the popular team of actors and performers Nesan Pather, Ashwin Singh, Kajal Maharaj, Derosha Moodley and Rory Booth.
With colourful characters such as SAPS officers Sanjay and Danjay, the news team of Minority Report, Uncles Jimmy and Johnny, the Gambling Grannies and many more, Popcom has been described by its makers as a tour de force.
This show takes a comedic look at South African and Indian culture, combining sketch comedy, dancing and performances by Eighteen Eighteen and Rory Booth. Their recent successful releases VIP and I Could Be will be performed live having gained popularity on East Coast Radio, Lotus FM, Redcap Radio and elsewhere.
Singh said he started focusing on Popcom in October last year. “I wanted to do a number of comedy sketches that would fit into an overall theme of Indian and coloured communities in Durban because I think these communities are highly connected.
“I wanted to tell funny but poignant stories. The show will be a mix of comedy character monologues, two-hander sketches, ensemble acts and a news bulletin, Minority Report, which covers issues in Indian and coloured communities and will be hosted by “Deborah Patha”, he chuckled.
Some highlights Singh hinted at are a speed dating themed sketch, which will put a spin on the Twilight saga, and a Bollywood dance sketch that takes a spoof look at beauty contests.
Singh said while the show is satirical and pokes fun at people, it is done in a light manner and in such a way that people will be able to recognise themselves in the characters of the production.
Speaking of the cast, Singh said he is working with a group of people he respects highly and who are multi-faceted performers in terms of naturally blending the song and dance aspects of the production.
“The show is a rare combination of non-contrived comedy and song, where song and dance are naturally part of the story,” he said.
Popcom will be at Suncoast Supernova on April 20 and 21 at 8.30pm. Bookings are open with tickets selling at R80. Call the box office on 086 124 6300.