12th September, 2004  Volume 11, Issue 9

First with the news and free with its views                                     First with the news and free with its views                             First with the news and free with its views                                    


Turtles Will Never Fly

By Kumudu Amarasingham 

Oh what a circus
Oh what a shame

Lines that echoed during the  mad, clowning, pitiful mess of the political circus that this island saw during the last year in particular and lines that echoed again during the proud, original, amusing, heart-warming portrayal of this circus at a preview we were privileged enough to witness last Tuesday.

Turtles Will Never Fly the latest production by the Butterfly Theatre Company - Second Wing - promises to be quite the show of a lifetime! The Sunera Foundation, conducted five day workshops in Jaffna, Batticaloa, Tangalle, Badulla and Hatton. A talented representation of all ethnicities were then selected for the latest production, in addition to disabled soldiers from the Ranaviru Sevana and differently-abled children.

With an obviously gifted cast, under the direction of the proven Wolfgang Stang and Rohana Deva assisted by Ramani Damayanthi, Turtles Will Never Fly will undoubtedly be a very special experience. It differs from its predecessors in being a satire - a political and social satire. Miming, mimicking, dancing, acting, gibberish - it is all there.

A diplomatic system is utilised whereby the lead player is chosen via a twirling pen. The same goes for the music - where a collection of Sinhala, Tamil and English pieces are available. The directors said communication was initially a bit of a problem, the players being from different parts of the island but this has for the most part been overcome through sign language and interpreters. It has, in fact strengthened the bond between cast members.

The project is sponsored by the government of the Netherlands and Chairperson, Sunera Foundation, Sunethra Bandaranaike was profuse in her thanks to the ambassador.

Said Stang and Rohana Deva, "The progress and latent talent in these kids is amazing. Not just in the field of acting. One differently-abled child, Jayasundera, has gone from being completely dependent on others for the most menial tasks, to an almost totally independent individual - able to do most of his work himself."

Indeed, entertainment aside, the therapeutic value of this work is undeniable. The question, as one wit pointed out, is, therapeutic for whom?

No doubt the so called 'normal' people, indeed the so-called 'greats' have as much to learn and gain from this production as those performing.

A peek Into The Wilderness 

Walking into the Thomian Hall on Monday to preview their latest production Into The Wilderness was in itself an experience. Actors were busy setting the stage, the crew was busy attending to last minute production work with posters and banners every where.

Unlike in the past, where they excelled in producing some excellent farcical plays, this year director, Vinodh Senadeera has changed the whole genre of their work.

Into The Wilderness is a play, which consists of three stages and depicts the darker side of life. Six prisoners awaiting death, a man facing a moral issue and a young girl unfairly losing her innocence is what Into The Wilderness is all about. Biman Wimalaratne, Johnny Christy, Janeeth Rodrigo, Nadeem Majeed and Chaminda Samaraweera take on some of the main roles.

Speaking to The Sunday Leader, Director, Vinodh Senadeera says he is content with the end result. " I have had a brand new cast to work with. We've read so many scripts but felt that this was the best choice. The cast is undoubtedly very talented. What I like about this group is that they are very innovative and work out things for themselves. The spontaneity was obvious. The will to be someone else was great."

When asked as to why he chose a serious script, Vinodh was prompt in replying that theatre is not only comedy. "It has so many forms and genres, which need to be explored," he said.

The enthusiastic cast had a lot to say. President, Drama Society, Wimalaratne said this year's production is both novel and different to what it has been involved in before. "Acting serious plays obviously is difficult because of its intensity, but at the end of every practice I am content with the progress of my effort," he said.

Johnny Christy plays three roles. To him this has been a novel and learning experience. He felt that it was good as a school to address these issues.

"I find it challenging to perform three contrasting roles in just 90 minutes, but it has been a new experience for me. As a cast we have all worked together and built up good team work," says Chaminda Samaraweera.

The production will be staged from September 17-19 at Lionel Wendt theatre. The show commences at 7.30 p.m. and tickets are now on sale at the Lionel Wendt and the S. Thomas' College office.

The call of nature

By Risidra Mendis 

Visions of lush jungle vegetation, curling and twisting creepers and tendrils, colourful indigenous flowers, unselfconscious nudes and stylised birds and animals is the best way to identify the paintings of one of Sri Lanka's most illustrious painters, Seevali Illangasinghe.

Illangasinghe who possesses a very distinctive original talent, has for many years been inspired by the wonder and beauty of nature. His keen and perceptive observation of the daily life of the simple village community and of the surrounding fauna and flora in the jungles has significantly influenced the themes of his paintings. This is evident when taking a look at his paintings many of which in some small way has a distinct feature from nature.

A blue manel flower springing from a pond is clearly visible in Illangasinghe's painting 'Three Maidens And The Blue Manel.' In the 'Young Boy And Friend' Illangasinghe has not failed to include a lake complete with manel flowers. 'The Cartwheel Of Life' has reference to the roots and bark of a tree while the 'Life-Bearer - A Sacred Trust' has a colourful scenic background of trees.

The jungle of the Wanni has always been the happy hunting ground for Illangasinghe's art and imagination, perhaps because its dominating influence helped mould Illangasinghe into the painter he now is.

Illangasinghe hails from a remote village, located in the very heart of a dense jungle in Sri Lanka's North Central Province. Accordingly we see the tapestry of village life in threshing of paddy in the kamatha, activity in the village boutique, bathing at the common well, a young girl with a hollowed habu going to fetch water and a gypsy woman in his paintings.

Illangasinghe not only depicts his vision of reality in his paintings but also probes into the inner striving of his subjects. Consider the carter endeavouring for a more fulfilling life but presently enmeshed in the mundane cartwheel of existence. On the other hand there is the painting of the bhikkuni poised serene in meditation, contemplating the attainment of her supreme goal.

Illangasinghe knows that eking out an existence in the Wanni jungle is hard work. But genuine hard work brings its just rewards. His men folk are dark, lanky, wiry and tireless in their daily pursuits. His women are full bodied and feminine with soft though resolute demeanour. 'The Life-Bearer - A Sacred Trust' depicts a pregnant woman with full breasts, cradling her extended belly in her hands lovingly and protectively.

He also has a number of paintings of maternal love that include 'Hope' portrayed as a young nude woman facing a distant dawn with a white dove perched on her shoulder.

Illangasinghe's earthly style is his very own, which is why his paintings are in great demand among art lovers. He has exhibited in most European countries including the UK and the United States.

An Illangasinghe exhibition is always a viewer's delight, as not everyone can invest in one of his paintings. However, all art lovers can seize the opportunity to appreciate this artist's magnificent talent before these exhibits disappear into private collections.

His exhibition will be held from September 13 to 19 at the Felix Gallery, Alexander Place, Colombo 7 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Bradman Weerakoon: Rendering Unto Caesar

The visitor to Sri Lanka encounters a beautiful island with the hospitality and charm of a delightful people but the news of the last 50 years has reported a country fraught by political strife and turmoil. It is so difficult  for the outsider to comprehend Sri Lanka's politics and to understand the background to what we see today.

Here at last we have a book that takes us through the 50 years in which Bradman Weerakoon witnessed the country's leaders shaking off their colonial heritage, established Sri Lanka's new position on the political map and grappling with the nation's erupting problems - above all the Sinhalese-Tamil ethnic rift that has been hitting world headlines for the past decades.

It is an unusual privilege to be able to share the front-seat view of the man who has worked beside nine of Sri Lanka's prime ministers and presidents. Bradman Weerakoon not only gives a true insider's insight into the world of dynastic democracy, political assassinations and dramatic swings of the pendulum in personal and political destinies, his personal biography is woven into the story in a way that tells us a lot about life in Sri Lanka in the last half century, both close to and at times further away from the pulse of the government in Colombo.

While the newcomer to the Sri Lanka scene may initially be daunted by the wealth of names and anagrams that pepper the complicated story, Bradman Weerakoon's delightful style makes the book compelling reading and leaves a special flavour in the reader's mind; the feeling of being able to understand the country better.

Highly recommended reading for any visitor who wants to get beneath the surface and understand the background to Sri Lanka today.

- Prof. Dr. Patricia East
Department of Tourism Management
Munich University of Applied Sciences
Munich, Germany

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