So I watched Cook a Pot of Curry on the 14th of July, Alfian Sa’at’s new play presented at LaSalle’s theatre. It was a fascinating piece of theater. It is not a play in any sense of the word, there is no plot, merely a unifying theme, that of the immigrant in Singapore. Mr. Sa’at tackles various perspectives in this piece, with various actors and actresses playing various roles, espousing their unique takes and views on the immigration issue. Several stand-out performances are to be had, and it is a high energy and highly political piece, with uncomfortable truths exposed at several turns.
Ultimately, one might say however, as useful and interesting as this piece may be, Sa’at’s piece falls just that bit short. He is ultimately “conventional” in the sense that a lot of the views he tosses out in this piece aren’t exactly new or unheard of. They are presented luridly, and stylishly, but fail to challenge the viewer. A part of me wonders if this is because the piece only works if we were to trust the neutrality of the “selector” of these extracts, or if Mr. Sa’at is trying to reflect reality as best as he can. I cannot say I did not enjoy my time at the theatre nor had he failed to challenge me, but I do wish, he had taken some of these POV moments further, and challenged us further. Many of his more cutting commentaries were met with applause and laughter, when I felt they should have been met with silence, for the audience should feel shame, and guilt for letting themselves take these very serious problems so lightly.
But my opinion is clearly in the minority. Cook a Pot of Curry is a fascinating work of art, deserving of the attention of any Singaporean at all concerned about the issues and problems faced by our country’s growing population, and the closely linked issue of immigrants in our midst.