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The Newsletter committee of my housing complex asked me to attend the new play “90 Days” and review it for our Co-op community. I happily obliged, though the review wouldn’t be published in time for my Co-op neighbours to actually see the play themselves. An interesting dialogue was started amongst committee members about reviewing events in order to share experiences and perspectives, not necessarily just to help promote or make recommendations. I feel very lucky to live in such a thoughtful, socially engaged community. And in case you can’t tell from my review below, I really enjoyed this play.

“90 Days” by Salim Rahemtulla, directed by Melissa Oei

reviewed by Matt Clarke

“90 Days” is an incredibly moving new play written by Kampala-born, Burnaby-based author Salim Rahemtulla. It draws on the writer’s own experience as part of a family who became separated during the traumatic 90-day period in which all non-indigenous people of Uganda were expelled by dictator Idi Amin. This is Rahemtulla’s first play, written to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1972 Ugandan exodus of Asians. Even from the experience before the show, the impact and importance to the local community was felt. The author was present when I attended on Saturday September 24th, and he introduced the house to several family members and friends of his who had also lived through this terrible event. Others in the audience identified themselves as refugees from the Ugandan exodus, and some people acknowledged their parents who could not be there at the performance. A transformation of time and place was occurring before the lights had dimmed. 

The play itself is funny and incredibly genuine. It doesn’t highlight violence, intentionally pull at one’s conscience or heartstrings, or make a heavy handed political statement. Instead it simply presents a portrait of a family set simply in their living room: coming home from school, eating breakfast, watching tv. The actors worked phenomenally to physicalize those hereditary connections that just subconsciously scream “family.” For example, both the son and the father love music, but the son’s staccato Mick Jagger-inspired dance moves to “Satisfaction” contrast with the father’s graceful swirls as he listens to his preferred Punjabi radio station. Similarly, the daughter and the mother both seem to have a certain eye-roll gesture built into their DNA, and are constantly executing it behind each other’s back as they disagree about friends and school. The play portrays the Rahim family relatably with nuance and sincerity. Because of their relatability, as well as a large, looming countdown clock above the stage, the weight of each of the 90 days before they are expelled is felt deeply. Can you imagine sitting in your living room doing homework and the radio announces that by February you need to leave your home forever? Because of this beautifully written play, its incredible actors, and the atmosphere of the community present in the audience that night, the weight of this time and place was truly made present. 

I attended this play on behalf of the Co-op, in order to share the experience with our neighbours. Incredibly, one of our neighbours in enclave six, Dilshad, is actually the author’s sister. On a very tangible level, our community here in the Co-op and the communities and events explored in this play are connected. The newsletter committee hopes to continue to highlight more stories and cultural events that encourage us to connect and understand each other more deeply.

“90 Days” is written by Salim Rahemtulla and directed by Melissa Oei, starring Dhirendra as Yusuf Rahim, Nimet Kanji as Parin Rahim, Akshaya Pattanayak as Nasser Rahim, Parm Soor as Munir Kassam, and Sabrina Vellani as Shamira Rahim, presented by Western Gold Theatre at the PAL Studio Theatre from September 8th to 25th.

While the live presentation of this play is over, you can watch a professionally filmed version as part of the company’s Virtual Gold series. Go to this URL to watch “90 Days” on pay-per-view until November 30th: https://westerngoldtheatre.tickit.ca/events/16913

Dhirendra as Yusuf Rahim and Akshaya Pattanayak as Nasser Rahim
Dhirendra as Yusuf Rahim and Akshaya Pattanayak as Nasser Rahim

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