Anoja's role as 'Mother Courage'
DRAMA: Henry Jayasena's landmark Sinhala adaptation of Bertolt
Brecht's seminal anti-war drama, "Mother Courage and Her Children," with
a cast largely comprising tsunami affected youth, will go on the boards
at the end of March 2006 at the Lionel Wendt. The play will feature
award-winning veteran screen and stage actress Anoja Weerasinghe in the
A different mood: Anoja Weerasinghe Picture by Tennyson
The play will take place at the Wendt from March 31 to April 2.
Brecht's play follows the story of Anna Frieling, nicknamed 'Mother
Courage', a clever, devious canteen woman with the Swedish Army
determined to make her living from the war. Over the course of the play,
she loses all three of her children, Swiss Cheese, Eilif, and Kattrin,
to the same war from which she sought to profit. It is one of nine plays
that Brecht wrote in an attempt to counter the rise of Fascism and
Nazism. Following Brecht's principles for political drama, the play is
set during the Thirty Years War of 1618-1648 and not in modern times.
The play, directed by Sue Weston and produced under the banner of
Anoja Weerasinghe's Abhina Academy of Performing Arts is sponsored by
HSBC. HSBC teamed with Weerasinghe's Abhina Foundation last year to
sponsor and help run a series of psycho-social drama workshops, where
the veteran actress and her group toured all parts of the island,
running theatre-based workshops for those traumatized by disaster and
Workshops were held in the South, East and West of Sri Lanka at 10
centres which drew crowds of children and youth, who were given
constructive tools with which to deal with loss, grief, trauma and anger
through drama, showing them a road to inner healing and peace through
drama therapy and performance art, effectively giving them catharsis
BRIEFING: Anoja Weerasinghe addressing the press conference.
Musician Dr.Premasiri Khemadasa, Shiroma Jayawickrama, Public
Affairs Manager of the HSBC, Daviel J.H. Griffiths, CEO of the
HSBC and veteran dramatist Dr. Henry Jayasena looks on. Picture by
On witnessing these children and youth now, it is hard to imagine
what they would have been going through, their road to healing through
drama showing great promise. The workshops took place during a span of
three months in the latter part of 2005.
From the large pool of potential talent that attended these
workshops, Weerasinghe hand picked 21 of the most promising actors, and
brought them to Colombo for an intense, advanced one-month workshop in
December. As a culmination of this workshop, HSBC supported the Abhina
Academy in the decision to stage a full length play, "Mother Courage and
Her Children," in which the members of the workshop will be prominently
For Abhina, this would be their second theatre project using
tsunami-affected participants, the other being Edinburgh Festival
award-winning "Children of the Sea," which is currently touring Sri
Lanka following its successful run in Scotland.
In staging a full-length play like "Mother Courage," widely
considered to be one of the most influential works of drama of the 20th
century, Abhina and HSBC feel it would be a fitting way to expose the
talented members of the workshops to theatre.
And in a gesture that could impact their future, it was decided that
Anoja Weerasinghe herself take a role in the play, so they would have
the chance of playing opposite a professional actor. Two other actors
from the Sinhala theatre are also playing in "Mother Courage," giving
the youth a chance to perform to their full potential on the same stage
with an experienced professional.
It would also give mass audiences a chance to see the wealth of
talent unearthed from the country's rural areas, and also befitting for
the children and youth to be recognised for their talents on a wider
platform than in their own village or town forums.
Sue Weston, Weerasinghe's own drama teacher at LAMDA to direct, the
organizers felt would give the play the weight, high standard and
treatment it deserved.
Anoja Weerasinghe's Abhina workshops proved ideal for bringing
emotional and mental healing through drama to a large number of those
affected by the mass destruction wreaked by the tsunami.
Speaking at a recent press conference held at the Galle Face Hotel to
announce her latest attempt with the tsunami affected children, Anoja
said: "Children of the Sea", the maiden drama I produced with the
tsunami affected children forced me to make "Mother Courage and Her
Children" as the second production of my Abhina Academy.
It is sad to note that most of those who dealt with the tsunami
victims treated these unfortunates as those possessed of a 'begging
mentality'. But really what they needed was love and encouragement to
build their lives back and not compassion.
"Not only Sri Lanka but the whole world today is facing a war risk. I
thought that this is the most suitable time to bring back "Mother
Courage and Her Children" to the Sri Lankan audience, which was earlier
produced by veteran dramatist Henry Jayasena", she said.
Veteran dramatist Henry Jayasena, offering his heartiest wishes and
blessings to Anoja for her latest attempt said: "From Anoja's point of
view, I am a Brecht specialist. But I am not so. However I have made two
plays out of Brecht's books. When I was doing "Chalk Circle" (Hunuwataye
Kathawa), there were two Germanies - West and East.
'There is enough war in this world'. This was the simple theory
focused by Brecht through his plays and he observed it as a 'stupid'
thing. However, he could not raise his voice for long as he was jailed
by Hitler. During one of my visits to Germany I met, Brecht's wife Helen
The role of Mother Courage was found by my wife Manel Jayasena. Since
she is not living, I believe, Anoja may have done justice to the
character played by her".
Mignonne in concert
MUSIC: A Celebration! - Mignonne in concert with friends Sunil
Perera, Sohan Weerasinghe, Rukshan Perera, Ishan Bahar, Mariazelle,
Yasmin, Shyami, Ronnie Soul Sounds & Soundari David and selected music
personalities will be held on 25 March 2006 at 6.45 p.m.
The concert will include several of Mignonne's originals and popular
hits from her CD 'A Celebration of Life' including the award winning
version of Mangala Mohotha with Soul Sounds, RTHK Award winning 'Island
Song', Jeevithe Vasanthaye, Den Nivadu Kale, Proud to be Sri Lankan, and
a scintillating version of Bombay Mere Hai, Top Pops from the '60s
(Jetliners Era) to the '80s consisting musical memories from the Coconut
Grove with additional sparkle move on to the '70s and '80s faves from
Mignonne, Sunil, Sohan, Rukshan, Ishan, Ronnie, Mariazelle, Yasmin,
Shyami and Shehara & the Band, A 'first' on stage 4 Keyboard combination
in 'Rhapsody in Blue' featuring Mignonne. Soundari David, Neranjan de
Silva, and Sureka Amerasinghe Dylan Lye from Hong Kong on Lead Guitar,
Aruna Siriwardhena and Christopher Prins on Drums, Neville - rhythm
guitar Shobi Perera and Musty on Bass Guitar.
All that Jazz where Mignonne and her friends in Concert get into a
cool comfort zone with Standards and Jazz faves specially arranged by
her for the Concert with Kumar Molligoda on Tenor, Alto and Soprano sax,
Exciting ethnic fusion in drum dialogue in images composed by Mignonne
for the Asian Composer's League recreated on stage. Ethnic Flute from
Sajeewa Gurusinghe and Dialogue between the Western Drum styling of
Aruna and Ethnic Drums of Nesan Thaigarajah will also be featured.
Also an all cast fun-filled 'Celebration' - Stomp' Medley where
Mignonne and her friends bring dance hits over the decades will be
followed by a 'surprise' finale... For reservations call Damayantha
70th birth anniversary of Gamini Fonseka: The legend lives
COMMEMORATION: Had he been alive he would have completed the
psalmist's lifespan of three score and ten. The Sinhala cinema is still
to recover from the massive void left by his parting. Volumes have been
written of his many deeds and performance on the silver screen.
But no amount of words can compensate for the ground-breaking role he
played in steering the Sinhala cinema to unconquered heights. Whatever
position that the Sinhala cinema has attained today is largely due to
LEGEND: Gamini Fonseka
He is still Sinhala cinema's uncrowned king, the Sakvithi the mantle
of which no other actor can claim to wear. Although Gamini Fonseka is no
more, his huge shadow still looms over Sinhala cinema like a benevolent
genie guiding its destiny. His ever grateful colleagues and devoted fans
are set to commemorate his 70th birth anniversary which falls on
Tuesday, March 21.
In the continuing saga of the Sinhala cinema no doubt the name Gamini
Fonseka will stand out as a shining beacon not just for his acting
prowess and unique screen presence but for the watershed he wrought in
the nascent Sinhala cinema.
There is no dispute that he was the catalyst which saw the Sinhala
cinema break away from the South Indian straitjacket in those early days
of the film industry. In this respect the speech made by JVP MP Wimal
Weerawansa in Parliament bears relevance.
Speaking on the condolence vote on Gamini who was one time Deputy
Speaker, the MP said that although the 1956 revolution changed many
facets of Lankan society it barely touched the Sinhala cinema and it was
only the advent of Gamini on the silver screen in the late 50s that
vested the local cinema with a national flavour.
Elaborating further on the one time matinee idol, the MP said, Gamini
was the first sinhala actor to strip off his garb and display his torso.
This he did with a flourish that sent the gallery audience into
In a way this symbolised the role played by Gamini to strip the local
cinema of its South Indian vestment in those early days when our local
stars were mere caricatures of their South Indian counterparts.
The macho image fired the imagination of local film fans so much so
he almost became an obsession with them. There were near riots on the
release of a new Gamini Fonseka film and often the police were summoned
to control the crowds in those pre-television days where the cinema was
the sole medium of entertainment.
A little known fact about Gamini was that he was an out and out rebel
and did not kowtow to dictator like producers who demanded obeisance
from the stars and technicians and meted out shabby treatment to them.
He stood up to their tyranny and fought for the rights of cinema
artistes. Many stars who later went on to make it big in the cinema
industry owe their success to this opening provided to them by Gamini
whose screen daring slightly rubbed on his dealings outside it.
Gamini was also fortunate to have many would be stalwarts of the
local cinema emerging at the same time of his launch and the influence
of Dr. Lester James Peries played no small role in shaping the direction
of Gamini's career. Films like Sandeshaya and Gamperaliya in which the
duo collaborated are still considered as high watermarks of the local
But it was the Serendibs who launched Gamini to his eventual stardom
with Ranmuthuduwa, Sinhala cinema's maiden colour film. The adventure
packed film with daring underwater scenes set the tone for the heroic
roles that was to follow and which he monopolised for over two decades.
Crowds thronged in their multitudes at the box office smashers in the
60's which is still considered as the golden era of the Sinhala cinema.
He also made his mark as a director, his first venture Parasathumal
winning many awards. Gamini's was a multifaceted character and the
anecdotes surrounding him and other aspects of his life contributed to
the legend. The characters he portrayed on screen had a ready resonance
with the ordinary masses and it was inevitable that he entered the
political field. His was a multifaceted role that extend beyond the
His larger than life presence enveloped the entire gamut of the
Sinhala cinema to the extent the Sinhala cinema and the name Gamini
Fonseka was spoken of in the same breath.
Many strove to imitate Gamini on screen but only succeeded in
exposing their limitations besides the colossus. This was put succinctly
by his one time leading lady Anula Karunatillake during an interview
following Gamini's death said she, "Sinhala cinemawe inne eka Chandiayai".
(There is only one Chandia in the Sinhala cinema).
TRIBUTE: A felicitation ceremony for the late film star Gamini
Fonseka will be held on March 21. The ceremony is organised by the
National Film Corporation Of Sri Lanka to mark the 70th birthday of the
great star which is on the same date.
A portrait of the incomparable Gamini Fonseka would be unveiled at
10.00 am on that day at the corporation's artists' rest room by the Film
Corporation chairman. The film 'Raja Dekma' in which Gamini Fonseka had
starred will be screened at 10.30 am and 2.30 pm at the Tower Hall
Maradana, on that day.
The film will also be screened at 6.00 pm under the patronage of
Cultural and National Heritage Minister Mahinda Yapa Abeywardana and the
film corporation chairman. Many film stars are expected to be present at
Walas Pawula at Lumbini
DRAMA: The latest children's theatre production 'Walas Pawula' (Bear
Family) presented by the Lanka Children's and Youth Theatre Organisation
(LCYTO) or better known as Play House in Kotte, the leading children's
play producer in Sri Lanka, will be staged on 18th March at Lumbini
Theatre at 3.30 pm and 6.30 pm.
Based on the fairy tale "The Three Bears and Goldilocks", the script
has been developed adopting it to suit the local audience by veteran
children's playwright and theatre director Somalatha Subasinghe who is
also the founder chief of 'Play House' in Kotte.
'Walas Pawula' which has been an overwhelming success among all
audiences, is directed and choreographed by Dr. Chandana Aluthge, an
artiste of the new generation groomed at the Play House in Kotte.
'Walas Pawula' is a musical and the production style of the play has
been developed so as to give the whole family an aesthetic journey of
entertainment. Choreography, lighting, costumes, stage props, and music
of the play have been carefully crafted to convey the children a sense
of basic art forms and meaningful entertainment.
According to the director of the play, the production style of the
play has been developed in a manner to inculcate in children a sense of
pride in our own culture as well as to promote the importance of the
institution of family and its values. The lessons of love, humanity and
care for nature refreshingly presented in the play are thought
Tharupathi Munasinghe a national award winning musician, has composed
music for the play while stage props and costumes are designed by Namal
Jayasinghe and Kaushalya Fernando and Pujitha de Mel respectively.
'Walas Pawula' cast comprises Wishvajith Gunasekera, Sanjaya
Hettiarachchi, Chamila Peiris, Lakmini Senevirathne, Niranjala Manjaree,
Sharmain Gunaratne, Suresh Fernando, Mayura Kanchana, Nayomi Gunaratne,
Chamila Priyanka, Aruna Jayasena, Pramood Edirisinghe, Dinuki de Silva,
Pramudi Karunaratne, Hiran Abeysekera, Ishara Wickramasinghe, Champika
Kannangara and a number of new actors trained at Play House in Kotte.