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Wednesday, 9 November 2011

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Henry Jayasena's second death anniversary on November 11:

Theatre was his forte

Two years have passed since his departure to the land of no return, his final curtain call. Usually with the lapse of time, we tend to forget those who have departed for good. But how can one forget a person of the calibre of Henry Jayasena, who had contributed immensely to the uplifment of Sinhala theatre?

Henry Jayasena

Having started his career as an English assistant at a remote school in Padiyapelella, he staged his first drama Janaki (based on the epic Ramayana) to help the needy children of the school to buy their stationery.

That was his first step into the field of theatre and he attained the pinnacle of his theatrical career with his masterpiece adaptation of Bertolt Brecht's The Caucasian Chalk Circle (Hunuwatye Kathawa) in 1967, which after 44 years of is still running to packed houses.

The success of most of his plays: Kuveni, Janelaya, Manaranjana Wedawarjana, Thawath Udasanak, Apata Puthe Magak Nethe? and Makara, to my mind, were partly based on his selections of the correct periods of maturity of the theatre.

His equal fluency of both Sinhala and English languages was another factor. His selection of the suitable phraseology, prose or verse, in all of his originals and translations proves that he really was a master in theatre craft.

He was also a person who had sterling qualities. He was a very simple man, unassuming, amiable and pleasant with a captivating smile which adorned his inert face even on his final journey. He was a very hard working person with commitment and he never indulged in political patronage.

He was once offered a top position by a one time President of our country, but Henry declined it, opting to carry on working in the Record Room of the Department of Highways.

His anger was justifiable when tasks were neglected or partly done, but was only short lived. He could drive a point in a very amiable manner. Once we had a performance of Apata Puthe Magak Nethe? in one of the universities. This play is about the student unrest in the universities and a tragic plight of a poor needy student who was forced to discontinue his studies when his bursary was cancelled. After the play, a group of students confronted Henry and questioned whether committing suicide was the ultimate solution to student problems.

Henry was quite unnerved and very calmly replied "Look here putha, that is exactly what I am asking through my play too.

If you had attentively listened to the monologue of the mother by the son's graveside, you would have clearly understood it. You have misinterpreted the title of my play Apata Puthe Magak Nathe? which should be with a bold question mark (Son, have we no way?)" So those students who came in for a major confrontation expecting heated arguments went back crestfallen. I could go on and on with more instances of his charismatic character. So dear Henry, wherever you are, we have not forgotten you.

How can we? We shall be observing religious rites to invoke blessings, so that you may, in your journey through sansara, ultimately achieve the sublime bliss of Nirvana.

 

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