Western Gold Theatre


SabrinaVellani in 90 Days
Photo: Javier Sotres

Western Gold Theatre
90 Days by Salim Rahemtulla

When & Where September 8 – 25, 2022 at 7.30pm (2pm matinees on Sept. 18, 22, 24 & 25 | PAL Studio Theatre, 581 Cardero Street

Director Melissa Oei Costume Design Donnie Tajani Set Design Kimira Reddy Lighting Design Rebekah Johnson Sound Design Joelysa Pankanea Dramaturg Natasha Nadir Stage Manager Karen Chiang Assistant Stage Manager Rachel Brew

Reviewer John Jane

“It’s always a beautiful day in Kampala” – words spoken by Dhirendra Miyanger’s lead character Yusuf in Salim Rahemtulla brand new play 90 Days. The simple statement becomes a perverse subtext in Rahemtulla’s drama that cruelly points out that nothing is forever.

The world premiere of this theatrical production presented by Western Gold Theatre coincides with the fiftieth anniversary of what was certainly the most bizarre human event of the twentieth century – the 1972 Ugandan forced exodus of its Asian community imposed by Idi Amin Dada. This semi-autobiographical play focuses on a fictitious Ismaili family caught up in a crisis not of their own making.

The storyline begins with a military coup d'état executed by the Ugandan military, led by Idi Amin, against then President Milton Obote in January 1971. It then shifts quickly to August 1972 when Amin announced his unilateral intention to expel all 80,000 Ugandan Asians living in the country, and that they would only be given 90 days to leave. Most of these people were of Indian descent. India and United Kingdom immediately severed diplomatic relations with Uganda.

While the Rahim family matriarch Parin is worried that they could soon become stateless, patriarch Yufuf is not concerned. He believes that being naturalized citizens of Uganda will protect his family from the threatened expulsion. He naively thinks that Idi Amin will eventually come to his senses and revoke the edict.

Parin and Yusuf’s differing points of view sets up a conflicting family dynamic. Yusuf and daughter Shamira contend the family will be safe remaining in Uganda. Parin and son Nasser argue that it will be better to leave.

Dhirendra Miyanger turns in a nuanced performance as confused father Yusuf who relies on a modest income from his general store. He gets able support from Nimet Kanji as his pessimistic wife who just wants her family to be safe. Sabrina Vellani and Karthik Kadam acquit themselves well as the couple’s children Shamira and Nasser Rahim.

Kimira Reddy’s functional set of a comfortable colonial style living room is certainly evocative of early seventies period in a former British colony, complete with an old cathode ray tube (CRT) television set. Donnie Tajani’s clothing is fit for purpose, although there was no change in Miyanger or Kanji garments over the near two year time frame.

Director Melissa Oei maintains an even pace and manages to sustain the tension as the 90 day deadline gets closer. Some of Salim Rahemtulla’s dialogue may not have been familiar to everyone in the audience, so a little translation in the program might have been helpful.

Rahemtulla’s story is a cautionary tale of sorts. No matter how painful, in life or death situations, you just have to leave everything behind.

© 2022 John Jane