Daily News Online

Wednesday, 2 June 2010



‘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 Theatre Festival?

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 theatre.

What challenges did you face in the translation process?

Colombo Colombo at Lionel Wendt
Indika 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 relationships.

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 international performances?

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 this year.


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