Three Years in the Life and Death of Land at Singtel Waterfront Theatre has stood the test of time, say cast members

Published on 02 August 2023
By Team Catch

In 1994, Three Years in the Life and Death of Land, written and directed by playwright Haresh Sharma, made its debut. Almost three decades later, it will take the stage again—this time at the new Singtel Waterfront Theatre along the bustling Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay.

Profile shot of Daisy Irani sitting on a chair

Daisy Irani shares her thoughts on the play, Three Years in the Life and Death of Land.

“Life and land—how much of that really changes?” mused Daisy Irani, who plays Mrs Mulchand in the play, in an exclusive backstage interview with Catch. Only one of the original cast members remains in the 2023 rendition of the play, but its universal themes of love, conflict, and acceptance still endure today.

Measured, thoughtful, yet provocative, the play is a meditation on everyday life in Singapore, shown through the lens of two families: the Lims and the Mulchands. On the surface, they are just like any ordinary family. But just like any ordinary family, there is more than meets the eye.

“Everyone is happy…or are they?” Daisy’s question is an apt one. Like many other immigrant women who have come to live in Singapore, Mrs Mulchand has the family she has always dreamt of but struggles to keep up with them, with “one foot in tradition and one foot in modernity”. 

More than anything, these existential questions should sound painfully familiar to the audience, though they are often relegated to the recesses of our busy minds. The play is simply exhorting us to shine a light on our deepest desires—and fears. 

Perfect timing

Profile shot of Karen Tan sitting on a chair

Is there a shift in outlook towards life after the pandemic as compared to the past? Karen Tan’s character Elizabeth Lim stands at the forefront of it in the play.

Commissioned by The Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay, the restaging of Three Years in the Life and Death of Land comes at just the right time, at least in cast member Karen Tan’s opinion. “It might not have worked 10 years ago,” she said.

For her, the pandemic was a crucial turning point that prompted many Singaporeans to reconsider their priorities and aspirations in life. Her character, Elizabeth Lim, is no exception.

“One thing I realised is that every character is running away from something,” she continued. “The interesting question is: What’s so wrong about Singapore that everyone wants to leave?”

Wide shot of Karen Tan and Daisy Irani facing each other

When the stories of two families from different backgrounds collide.

Indeed, Elizabeth eventually leaves her husband and children in the play, despite the Lims being what the late Lee Kuan Yew would have considered the model middle-class Chinese family. In spite of it all, her decision—while “unpopular”—is a testament to how honestly she is trying to live out the rest of her life.

Wide shot of the cast members

Drama, comedy, music, and pathos all wrapped within Three Years in the Life and Death of Land.

“No action, no sex, no car chases—it’ll be nice to see how young people deal with simplicity. It’s their world we’re hoping to predict anyway,” Karen said, adding that her 18-year-old daughter will be attending the show with her literature classmates. 

There may not be that addictive rush of adrenaline that mainstream audiences gravitate towards today, but Three Years in the Life and Death of Land is still drama, comedy, music, and pathos all wrapped up in one. And if you think about it, that’s life.  

Contemplate the meaning of life, death, and land in Three Years in the Life and Death of Land. The play runs from 5 to 13 August 2023 at the Singtel Waterfront Theatre. Tickets are available from $45.

All images belong to Catch.

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