Rani Moorthy, a Sri Lankan Tamil who grew up in Malaysia and moved to Manchester ‘for loveâ€, provides a colourful and insightful look at cultural differences through the world of cooking in Curry Tales.
In the production, at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg, Moorthy uses various roles to show differences between people of the same origin. Her Tamil identity remains consistent as she portrays these diverse people — even a Caribbean of Tamil descent.
‘This show is about differences,â€ says Moorthy, who lays claim to several cultural heritages, having married an Englishman and being of Sri Lankan origin.
What she has done with Curry Tales is look at where she comes from and how that has affected and influenced her life.
Moorthy says food is a ‘wonderful metaphorâ€. Curry, with so many varieties and ingredients, shows the differences and similarities among people. ‘Events around you influence and impact on your life. This play is about differences and such events bring about differences and that’s what really interests me.â€
Before arriving in Manchester, Moorthy found fame in Singapore where she had her own television comedy, The Ra Ra Show. ‘I was never known as someone who knew what they were doing in the kitchen. I started cooking during the lean months, because I needed something creative and I couldn’t work in England,â€ she says.
The idea that this is a cooking show is wrong. ‘I’m no Nigella Lawson,â€ she says. ‘It’s simply another tool to tell a story.
‘I had to find some kind of hook for what I wanted to say and curry was it.â€
Moorthy emphasises the need to move back to the fundamentals of theatre.
‘Theatre is the most basic form of storytelling. You shouldn’t leave the audience out of what you are doing. The audience must leave the show with an emotional affinity for it.â€ People who usually do not visit the theatre must leave with something from Curry Tales, Moorthy says. The content, not the food, must capture the audience.
‘I’m bringing all aspects of my cultural baggage to the table. It’s about how you weave and conjure the work, like you do in life. The cooking is a metaphor on all levels.â€
Moorthy says that in South Africa, more than anywhere else, she has become aware of racial divisions. This, too, can be woven into theatre — the differences should be noticed and not ignored.
‘There is a need for new material, people must write new works and be involved with their stories and in stories that are global. I want the story to speak to as many people as possible. Art should make you see the world differently. Art has to have a transitional value.â€
Curry Tales runs until February 17 at the Market Theatre. Tel: 011 832 1641