ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday January 6, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 32

Laugh a minute

By Smriti Daniel, Pix by Athula Devapriya

Neidra Williams and Jehan Bastians have discovered that staging light comedies can be hard work...but that this only makes meeting the challenge more enjoyable. You may know them as the couple who brought you Yes, Hon. Minister, and for those of you who enjoyed that production Tom, Dick and Harry – their latest offering – is a must see. Just days before the contained chaos that marks the run-up to every production began, the Mirror Magazine managed to corner Neidra and Jehan for a brief chat about their new play.

Jehan Bastians Neidra Williams

The two are old hands at this sort of collaboration, not least because they're also married to each other. They've staged several big productions since 1999 and have also directed a number of Shakespearean plays for schools. Neidra says they manage the division of labour fairly amiably. She likes to focus on the nitty-gritties of the production while Jehan keeps his eye on the big picture. As the couple behind the company Silent Hands, they have obviously found what works both for them and for their audiences, and it can be summed up in one word – comedy. "We realised from our last production that comedy really works. People want to see comedy...and it's also something we're really good at," says Neidra.

Though they have undoubted affection for British playwrights like Ray Cooney, the duo have their sights set firmly on what appeals to local audiences, which is why they strive to incorporate some element of Sri Lanka – be it in a character or situation -– into their plays. They're also big on giving aspiring, but not particularly experienced actors a chance to star in a major production. And Tom, Dick and Harry, is no exception to either of these.

The play stars Mahesh Senaratne, Miranga Ariyaratne, Niren Neydorff, Anush De Costa, Gehan Blok, Sashini Wakwella, Sulochana Perera, Javin Thomas and Neidra herself. Jehan and Neidra are directing the production together. Written by Ray Cooney with his son Michael, Tom, Dick and Harry, follows the lives of three brothers. Tom and his wife Linda have decided to adopt a baby, and as the play opens, they are anxiously awaiting the arrival of a certain Mrs. Potter. You see, the future of their family lies in the uncompromising hands of Mrs. Potter – she will be the one who decides whether they're actually good parent material.

Understandably, Dick and Harry, Tom's hapless brothers, are also determined to contribute to the success of the adoption proceedings. However, the road to hell, as they say, is paved with good intentions. Between Dick and Harry, they present their brother with a whole load of troubles – including a stash of smuggled loot, two illegal immigrants, stolen bodies, the Russian mafia and the local constable - all of which must be hidden from the unsuspecting Linda and the suspicious Mrs. Potter.

Prepare for some pretty outrageous explanations, says Jehan, adding that the humour in the play is of the "obvious" kind...high on physical humour and low on subtlety, but sure to inspire a laugh a minute. The cast has great chemistry, says Neidra, explaining that the 9 member group makes for a more intense, up-close and personal theatre experience. In the end, 'Tom, Dick and Harry,' may offer what many local theatre goers seem to opt for most – a little humour of the fall-out-of-your-chair-laughing variety, well acted and solidly staged.

Silent Hands presents Tom, Dick and Harry on January 18, 19, and 20 at the Lionel Wendt from 7:30pm onwards. Neidra and Jehan are assisted by Mahesh Senaratne. Tickets are on sale at the Wendt and are priced at 800, 600, 350 and 250 for balcony seats. Parking available in front of the Wendt.

Sponsors for the event are S.P Solutions, The Sunday Times, The Daily Mirror and Efm.

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