Hip-hop, in all of its brilliance as an art form, is not often looked at as high art, what more within the context of theatre.
The fact that Checkpoint Theatre has commissioned a project that unabashedly revolves around the culture, reinforces the notion that they are in the business of telling real stories about the people, for the people.
This time, they’ve joined forces with playwrights and performers Pooja Nansi and Jessica Bellamy for Thick Beats for Good Girls (TBGG). Directed by Huzir Sulaiman, this tragicomic tackles issues of race, culture, religion and femininity using hip-hop as a storytelling vehicle.
In other words, get ready to be struck by a wave of nostalgia as some of the best hip-hop anthems from days gone by resurface to invade your senses, making you bob your heads and throw your hands in the air like you just don’t care.
Challenging the status quo
If society has ever made you feel different, like you’re far too strange for existence or unworthy of a place in the circles you’re expected to be part of, this play will strike a chord with the misfit within you.
Through Jessica, a young Jewish woman hailing from Australia, and Pooja, a daughter of Indian immigrants who’s made Singapore her home since the age of one, we get to explore the inherent struggles they face as minorities trying to fit the mould.
That’s where hip-hop comes in as a powerful catalyst for transformation. Music that celebrates freedom and challenges the oppression of Black lives has navigated its way into the hearts and lives of our two heroines, inspiring them to break out of themselves.
There are dark moments that grip your heart and drop it like a stone. When Jessica questions how her religion is misaligned with her personal beliefs, you can feel her anguish. The theatre grows so quiet you can’t even swallow your saliva in fear of breaking the silence.
Moments of pure comedic brilliance counterbalance these emotionally intense scenes. You are in for a good laugh when Pooja recounts that fateful day she discovered the joys of masturbation for the first time, something “good Indian girls” don’t typically open up about.
Birds of a feather
Like two soul sisters meant to find each other in the universe, Pooja and Jessica share a chemistry on stage that’s electric and joyous to watch. They operate like charged atoms – wonderfully in sync when they share a scene and just as compelling when they break apart for their individual monologues.
The way they shift gears between moments of pure silliness and intense seriousness from scene to scene – for 80 straight minutes, mind you – is beyond impressive. This is, of course, a testament to the brilliant writing that seamlessly weaves all the different storytelling elements into one complex, layered and cohesive masterpiece.
Rapping things up
After everything that’s been said, done and rapped about, what you’d truly appreciate about TBGG is the clever and masterful way in which it uses hip-hop as a storytelling medium to impart universal lessons.
You’re not required to be a young female immigrant, religious minority or even a hip-hop aficionado to relate to the play on some emotional or intellectual level (although being any of the above would help increase your appreciation of the play substantially)
At its heart, TBGG is quite simply a sincere thank-you letter earnestly written to a dear old friend – that friend being a lyrical art form and genre of music in this particular case – who helped peel off the layers of anguish and insecurity from your youth.
It’s an unapologetic celebration of how two individuals realised and embraced every paradox that makes up their unique being. Quoting a certain Kanye West, “I didn’t play the hand I was dealt, I just changed my cards. I prayed to the skies, and I changed my stars.” Word.
The play will be ending its run on 22 April 2018. Get your tickets here. Watch our interview with Pooja and Jessica below.
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