‘Colombo Colombo’ in Kathmandu
Colombo Colombo was first staged in August last year and has since
been critically acclaimed as a fresh and exciting theatre experience
that sets the benchmark for contemporary Sri Lankan theatre.
Saumya Liyanage playing a multi-tasked role
Indika Ferdinando, recipient of several state awards for best
playwright and director, works as a lecturer at the University of Visual
and Performing Arts in Colombo, and had conceived the play as an
experimental piece which is an extension of his scholastic research.
The play comprises a dynamic cast of young actors from the Sinhala
theatre including Saumya Liyanage and Jagath Chamila and the lead role
is played by Anasuya Subasinghe, who had gained her degree in Theatre
Studies in New Zealand. The lighting for Colombo Colombo was designed by
Sri Lanka’s foremost lighting artist Thushan Dias; the lyrics for the
songs written by Piyal Kariyawasam, a recipient of state literary
awards, and the music composed by Theja Rodrigo who has also received
many awards for his music composition in the theatre.
Excerpts from the interview with Director Indika Ferdinando:
What is the South Asian Women’s
It’s an event organised by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations
in collaboration with the National School of Drama in New Delhi and the
Jamia Millia Islamia University. The idea of organising this event had
risen from a conference on Women of South Asia that was held last year.
A scene from ‘Colombo Colombo’
The festival focuses exclusively on women’s issues as well as women
theatre artists. Eight theatre groups from Afghanistan, Nepal, Bhutan,
Bangladesh, Pakistan, Myanmar and Sri Lanka along with six theatre
groups from different parts of India performed at the festival. As an
extension of the main event in New Delhi, mini festivals were held in
Kolkata and Mumbai.
How was Colombo Colombo, a Sinhala
play that discusses local issues, received in India?
Although the play was initially written and performed in Sinhala, the
most crucial dialogues were translated into English for the India shows.
In addition, I had a scene-by-scene synopsis projected onto screens on
either side of the stage to help the audience.
I believe that the issues discussed in the play are more or less
relevant to all South Asian nations, having said that, my concern was
the duration of the play.
Would Colombo Colombo have the capacity to sustain the attention of a
foreign audience for two hours? But what we learnt from the audience
itself during discussions after the shows, was that in spite of the
language barrier, they were able to feel the intensity of the situations
and the dynamic and expressive style of performance combined with the
musical component kept them engaged from start to end.
And in my theatre practice, I believe that it’s my responsibility to
offer an exciting and aesthetically engaging theatre experience to the
audience. In short, for me, it’s about finding and creating magic in
challenges did you face in the translation process?
Colombo Colombo at
Fernando’s ‘Colombo Colombo’ will be staged at the Lionel Wendt
Theatre on June 5 and 6. The play has been invited to be
performed at the Kathmandu International Theatre Festival held
in Nepal in November. It will be staged at several universities
within the next few months, director said.
I wanted the English translation to retain the rhythm and playful
style of the original Sinhala dialogues.
It had to flow with the overall identity of the play and enable the
switch between the two languages to happen seamlessly.
Why do you describe Colombo Colombo
as an experimental piece?
The play does not conform to an Aristotelian structure. In other
words it challenges the linear storyline with a single climactic ending
that we are often familiar with, and replaces it with an episodic
structure with four independent scenes. However, these scenes are linked
together through thematic elements as well as the appearances of several
characters and recurrent conditions that are common to all the events.
Does the play carry a feminist theme?
‘Colombo Colombo attempts to look at the existing social and
political systems and their power to determine the nature of human
The influences of the socio-political context that we live in have
the ability to transform the values and beliefs of people and their
relationships in a matter of minutes. Yet another segment of the
population chooses to remain indifferent to these conditions for the
fear of having to change the lives that they’ve grown accustomed to.
Having said that there is definitely a focus on the woman in Colombo
Colombo. Central to all four episodes in the play is a young woman. Her
name is Vyanga. But in each episode she is a different person.
The difficulties faced by all these Vyangas draw attention to the
impending dangers that not only threaten the existence of women, but
also pursue them even after death. However, the perils of living in a
society such as ours and the fight for survival is not merely a woman’s
plight. I feel that this tragic condition is common to every individual
in this country.
What next in terms of local and
We’re scheduled to perform Colombo Colombo on June 5 and 6 at the
Lionel Wendt and at at several universities within the next few months.
Meanwhile, we have also received an invitation to perform at the
Kathmandu International Theatre Festival to be held in Nepal in November