How did your journey on You Are Here begin?
JOEL: It started out with you asking me out for coffee one day, saying you had an idea for a show you wanted to write. Because you had just stumbled on a bunch of letters, and you had, like, this whole treasure trove of photos, right? And then, from that conversation, it just grew and grew. I think, at that coffee, I challenged you to write something, and then, on a weekly basis, she just sent me more and more stuff until the shape for the show started to emerge.
POOJA: Joel pitched it to Checkpoint [Theatre] when they were putting [together] What I Like About You Is Your Attitude Problem for the Singapore Writers Festival. It was a nice, friendly atmosphere in which you could try the work, and it was a dramatised reading. So we had the space to play and see how it worked with audiences.
How has the show changed over the years?
JOEL: The show has changed a lot with every iteration because the wider conversation around the show keeps changing as well. The show has taken on a different character each time you do it.
POOJA: My own response to things like casual racism or thoughts about belonging shift as I grow older and different things happen in my life. I start seeing things through a different lens. The way I have wanted to write about identity has changed as well. So, every time I do the show, I come in from a different place. The last time I did it, I had just gotten married, so it’s this weird monumental thing in my life. With the Wild Rice version, specifically – I just had a baby. I’m coming to terms with motherhood still, and it really sheds a different light when you start talking about your mother, your mother’s mother.
What’s the best thing about working with each other?
POOJA: Drinking wine, before, during and after…
JOEL: During, sometimes.
POOJA: In all honesty, it’s also not having to explain myself and what my intention is with the work, because I feel like Joel always – “Mm, you know, it’s like yeah,” then, after that, we just know. That’s really rare and we really appreciate it.
JOEL: Yeah, I agree. Hence, this is the working dynamic!
What’s the worst thing about working with each other?
JOEL: Sometimes, we can’t stop laughing. When we are feeling very lazy, we just give in to it.
POOJA: Yeah, we give in to it, then we don’t work!
JOEL: There have been afternoons when we were working together and we’re just like – “Can we just go eat?”
POOJA: Yeah, and then we just go eat, and that’s horribly undisciplined.
JOEL: So for all the creative efflorescence, there’s also a lot of laziness.
What makes Singapore home for you?
POOJA: I can’t imagine anywhere else as home. My family is here. My found family – my friends – are all here. The food I love is here. It’s the only city in the world where I can go anywhere and not have to look at GPS. I just know it like the back of my hand. For me, I have no other city to call home.
JOEL: Same. Because I moved to London for a while, I also realised it’s the exact way in which the sun hits your skin here, which is unlike anywhere else in the world. I feel like my body responds to this place in a way that it does nowhere else. It’s like getting into a warm bath of familiarity and comfort.