Malaysian-born comedian Rani Moorthy is back in Singapore after more than 15 years to unleash her madcap antics on stage.
Comedy fans may remember her from the Channel 5 comedy-skit series ‘The Ra Ra Show’ in the 1990s (also starring comedian Kumar), before she moved to the UK in 1996.
Her upcoming one-woman show, ‘Curry Tales’, will be staged at the Esplanade Theatre Studios from 13 to 16 June.
Employing the conventions of South Indian Kuthu theatre, which breaks the divide between audience and performer, the actress-playwright will dive into the lives of six different characters while literally cooking up a storm on stage.
In an email interview, she talks about her theatre work in India, as well as curry – two of her biggest passions.
Kuthu theatre has a fine tradition of biting satire, ribaldry and audience participation. How did you get involved in this genre and why did you choose to replicate it in ‘Curry Tales’?
The British Council saw a play of mine at the Edinburgh Festival in 2002 and invited me to perform in Sri Lanka in 2003, when there was a lull in the civil war there and peace talks were being brokered between the government and the Tamil Tigers.
I was the first Tamil woman to perform in the war zone. While touring in Jaffna and Batticaloa, I realised that traditional Kuthu – not just the style but the freedom and implicit understanding between performer and audience – struck a chord with me.
My great grandfather was a legendary actor in Northern Sri Lanka and probably used Kuthu in his work, so I guess it has always been in my DNA.
Part of my research for ‘Curry Tales’ took me to South India and I spent time observing Kuthu performances of companies such as Kutthu-p-pattarai and Kataikuthu Sangam.
Kuthu is also sacred and associated with rituals; it has an innate theatricality and aesthetic, and yet stems from the most human of needs – the need for shared experience.
I've absorbed the spirit of the Kuthu genre rather than use a full-on replication of it in my performances.
Do you have to craft the humour in your performance or does it come more organically?
I think the best humour comes from recognition and observation and this can be honed over time and experience.
But magic happens, when the performer is relaxed and not trying too hard, an the audience is given permission to laugh.
Laughter is a serious business because it tackles things that we run away from in everyday life, usually things that we don't dare talk about that are usually taboo.
From pratfalls to witty satire, humour is always subversive.
Cooking is pivotal in ‘Curry Tales’. What are some of your earliest and fondest memories related to curries?
The morning after, when the flavours in a curry have "settled" and mellowed in the afterglow. When no animal was harmed in the making of it, and a fresh paratha (bread) is recommended to clean the plate.
If you could make steps towards “I-have-a-curry named-after-me” greatness, what kind of curry will it be?
It would be called "The Drama Queen" and it will have complex flavours, often working against each other, an aftertaste that lingers, and frothy foam that forms on top as it cools down, so that only those with robust palettes can handle the plunge.
Any curry-making tips to share?
Think of burning in hell when you grind the masala.