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Wednesday, 28 April 2010

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Our theatre is crumbling down - Lucien Bulathsinhala

Lucien Bulathsinghala is a proficient theatre artist who started his vocation as a stage actor in the 1960s. The earliest role he played was Saliya in a traditional tragicomedy entitled Sakunthala.

It was highly admired at the time. The play was directed by the then examination commissioner L. L. K Gunasekara. His first original play Mannadiya was staged in the


Lucien Bulathsinhala

1960s. The plot of the play revolved around economic problems of the ordinary fisher community. Lucien wrote the script himself based on his experiences with the fishermen he met in Rathmalana coastal area where his parents lived.

Sirilal Kodikara, the renowned critic, reviewed that Mannadiya should be staged in every fishing village. Bandula Jayawardane fine tuned Lucien’s talents and paved the way for his second play Noniwena Gini. Lucien’s role in Bihivena Bosathano received rave reviews in the press. His next play Rathuhattakari was staged in 1974. During this period, Lucien had the opportunity to act in theatre productions directed by Sugathapala de Silava and Premaranjith Thilakaratne. Then he staged Tharavo Igilethi in 1981. Meanwhile he served as an announcer at Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation and joined Rupavahini and worked towards its development. However, he had to leave Rupavahini after sometime.

The seven years of lagging behind from Rathuhattakari (1974) to Tharavo Igilethi (1981) resulted not due to the ‘creative wait’ for the next artistic creation. He was busy in the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation as an announcer for his living. Later the authorities transferred him from Radio to Television in the sense of developing the television media. However he left the television after couple of years as a chastisement for doing his job in a proper artistic manner.

Then for 18 more years he, unto today, remained jobless. Thus, he, as a theatre artist, became motionless in the middle of his path. Thus, after Tharavo Igilethi, Lucient never got involved in theatre directing and unconsciously decided to remain in silence for such a long time.

The underdevelopment of our social formation was also responsible for his present silence in stage. Lucien, while arguing on this particular matter, compared the facilities and the technicalities of the theatre in developed countries with our theatre.

“I had an opportunity to be familiar with German theatre during my seven-month stay in Germany. German theatre has a chequered history and a fully systematized process of its own. We don’t have such a theatre tradition in Sri Lanka.” Germany has a well developed and independent theatre tradition in every region even at the pre-modern era. Today, this diversity of traditions combined into a united State tradition of theatre practices without blotting their original identities out.

These regional theatres still remained in Germany. They are able to afford the financial expenses of their theatre productions on their own, even without any help from the State government. The State institutions involve in helping financially as well. Yet most of theatre productions perform independently. Therefore, the German spectator has to travel to catch see his or her favorite play. Various kinds of theatre artists are rooted completely to a particular region of theatre. We Sri Lankans have a gypsy theatre.

Theatre productions moves always from one region to another. And the theater facilities in the remote areas are very poor. We don’t accurately maintain any independent regional theatre or we don’t either have any stable institution to help in our theatre education and production costs.

”Whenever I visited a developed country and experience their quality of theatre, I always monologue to myself as to why I am a theatre artiste in this world.” Lucien’s confession about his silence in theatre came not from a mere paranoid. Our underdeveloped condition in theatre pulled him into such a state of mind. Our theatre constantly relies on uncertain audiences and technically expired theatre halls. Lack of professionals, proper theatre halls, educational standards and the removal of practical lessons in schools created this backwardness. The theatre today in Sri Lanka becomes increasingly worse from city limits to remote areas.

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