11th April, 2004  Volume 10, Issue 39



















Fiddler On TheRoof

By Kumudu Amarasingham 

To regular (and not so regular) movie-buffs Norman Jewison's production of this Joseph Stein play is now very old news. Nominated for over eight academy awards, this is definitely one of the best musicals ever: one that, incidentally no movie theatre ever bothered to show here.

The action takes place in an early 20th Century Jewish village in Russia and the work is both a tribute to and criticism of the customs and tradition that make up the small community in the village of Anatevka.

The plot is relatively simple. Tevye, the milkman has five daughters. The play begins with attempts by the parents to find a match for Tzeitel, the eldest. 

The noted matchmaker, Yente, eventually comes up with a decrepit old butcher for the girl, not yet 20. Tzeitel however has other plans. She and the poor tailor Motel have pledged themselves to each other - an unheard of thing at the time. Eventually, after much begging and pleading, Yente gives them permission to unite. This also happens with his two other daughters, Hoddel and Chava, one of whom falls in love with a revolutionary and travels to Siberia to be with him, and the other, who marries outside the faith. The story ends with the whole village being evicted by Russians.

The beauty of the tale lies in its universal appeal: the dream of riches, the breaking away from tradition, love, trial and family. Yente is often torn between his need to be fair and the force of the traditions that have been instilled in him. Tradition in fact forms one of the main themes of the play: tradition and the breaking away from it. This is portrayed magnificently at the inception of the musical through Yente's song -Tradition. A montage of village scenes at this point familiarise us to the surroundings that are going to wring tears and laughter out for the next three hours or so. No-one can not cry or laugh at some point through this masterpiece.

The orchestra is outstanding and the voices, almost without exception, are splendid. Each frame has a place and purpose and blends beautifully. Topol as Tevye definitely deserves a standing ovation!

But no comment can be complete without an analysis of that elusive, haunting fiddler. Many theories have been proposed for his existence. The fiddler on the roof is said to represent balance - the careful balance that simple Yente must execute to leave a god-fearing life in a sometimes seemingly godless land. On the other hand he could stand for the unwavering faith that Yente has through his troubled, yet rewarding life. Then again who knows, he may be Yente's guardian angel - as someone said. Whatever he is, he forms an integral part of the play.

Fiddler On The Roof: one of those extraordinary surges of brilliance that the world is sometimes favoured with - when the muse is in a good mood.

'Greed': an entertaining mime act from the UK

The Clod Ensemble from UK, sponsored by the British Council will perform their award winning show Greed in Colombo, Kandy and Jaffna between April 19 and 28.

The tour is co-sponsored by Channel 1 MTV, Yes FM, Classic Radio, Shakti FM, The Colombo Plaza and SriLankan Airlines.

A dentist and his beautiful young wife are rescued from a life of poverty when they inadvertently discover a miracle mouthwash, which promises perfect white teeth for life. The product is a nationwide hit and the young lovers soon become fabulously wealthy. But life is hard and dentistry is not much easier. As their business blossoms, holes begin to appear in their relationship, their business ethics and their teeth.

A romantic comedy, it is inspired by the silent movie era of 1920s and the slapstick of Keaton and Chaplin. Two skilful young actors mime the melodramatic rise and fall of a dentist and his wife. Without any words, the action unravels, including moments of slapstick, pathos and sideways observations about the ethics of business and the business relationships. Subtitles projected onto a screen and melodramatic music, tug at the emotions in a gentle, ironic way.

Starring Jason Thorpe and Sarah Cameron it features an original score for piano played live by John Paul Gandy. Greed premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August 2003.

Performance schedule

Colombo - British Council Hall

Monday April 19, 7.30 p.m.

Tickets Rs. 300 on sale at the British Council from April 14

Kandy - Trinity College Hall

Wednesday April 21, 7.00 p.m.

Tickets Rs. 250 and 150 on sale at the British Council from April 14

Jaffna - Navalar Hall

Sunday April 25, 6.00 p.m.

Admission Free

Colombo - Lionel Wendt Theatre

Wednesday April 28, 3.00 p.m. and 7.30 p.m.

Tickets Rs. 500, 350, 250 and 150 (balcony)

On sale at the Lionel Wendt and at the British Council from April 14

Workshops Tuesday April 20, 9.30 a.m. - 12.30 p.m.

British Council Hall,

Colombo Friday April 23 - 10.00 a.m. - 1.00 p.m.

Trinity College Hall, Kandy

Monday April 26 - 10.00 a.m. - 1.00 p.m.

Navalar Hall, Jaffna

Tuesday April 27 - 9.30 a.m. - 4.30 p.m.

British Council Hall, Colombo

Admission to the Colombo and Kandy workshops by prior registration at the British Council offices in Colombo and Kandy. 

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