Fundamentally Happy is originally an English play by Haresh Sharma which was translated into Chinese by Nelson Chia of Nine Years Theatre. I decided to watch it in preparation for script writing module next semester.
This play has all the ingredients that literary fictions enthuse – unreliable narrators, internal conflicts and external tension.
Eric returns to his neighbourhood after twenty years in Melbourne. He is now a medical social worker. He visits his old neighbour, Habiba’s house, where he spent many happy hours while his parents worked. As Eric and Habiba recall the happy hours, he is suddenly reminded of being molested and rape by Habiba’s husband, Ismail, who does not appear at all.
Habiba is adamant that the incidents did not occur and accuses Eric of being the perpetrator instead, by first seducing Ismail by wearing tight shorts. She can’t understand why Eric is trying to destroy her family and begs Eric to withdraw the charges.
Yet when Eric does withdraw, we learn from Habiba that Ismail is indeed a pedophile who lusts after young girls, not boys, and that he has been arrested by the police from the evidence found in his computer.
The change of time is shown by the appearance of stage crew who rearranges the props, most specifically the clock on the wall.
The acting by Lok Meng Chue and Timothy Wan is intense, yet I find the ding-dong accusation between the two, even if they are unreliable and their memory distorted, a little unbelievable, especially in Habibah. On one hand, Habibah chooses to be blind and accuses the then 10-year-old Eric of seducing her husband, then she admits he is a pedophile for young girls, not boys, and calls Ismail a satan. Finally, as she prepares to leave Ismail, I am again given the impression that she thinks he is not guilty.
I love the setting, the beautifully realistic living room of a 80s landed house, with air holes at the top, reminding me of my own mother’s house before it was renovated and the holes sealed.
After the play, there was a sit-and-chat session with the Director and the two actors with tea and wine served, which I really enjoyed, as the occasion bridges the theatre company and audience.