Evening of quirky insights

By Natasha Fernandopulle, Pix by M. A. Pusha Kumara

Two weekends, four directors, nine humorous, but dark plays... Sounds enticing enough? Well, if you were able to be a part of the Noir theatre festival last year, you might just be able to understand what I am getting at. If you appreciate intense theatre, be a part of the thought-provoking experience StageLight&Magic Inc., (SLM), is offereing.

The nine plays to be performed are written by American playwright Shel Silverstein, while being directed by Sajith Amendra, Marsh Dodanwela, Feroze Kamardeen and Anuruddha Fernando. "Noir is a very important part of our theatre calendar," Feroze Kamardeen said, adding that the festival was held in the course of four weeks, last year. However, this year's festival will be a toned down version.

"The idea is to have a Noir with a dark theme," in terms of the purpose of having Noir, Feroze said. He went on to say that throughout the course of the year SLM's productions include comedies, musicals and so on, which tend to be more or less on the light-hearted side of theatre, with a lot of colour on stage in terms of costumes and lighting, but this will be a different treat all together. "It gives us a chance to return to our roots," Feroze went on to say. Noir is all about the acting – pure and simple, dark and funny.

Another factor brought out through Noir is to give others a chance to direct. "It gives most of the others confidence in directing plays and it gives them the experience as well," says Feroze. The plays consist of dark humour with twisted and funny themes, which could probably be best described using the idea of dark chocolate.

"An evening of a selection of short plays," is how Feroze describes the festival, adding that the longest will be around 22 minutes long. "It is mainly about the message getting across and not about the sets and costumes," he stresses.

Feroze will be directing, Click which will be produced by Dinesh Maheswaran. This twisted plot is like Russian roulette, and the setting – is a bathroom – Valerie is taking a bath while Leonardo keeps spinning the chamber and pulling the trigger. While it revolves, it makes a 'click.' Thus keeping you guessing, as the odds the bullet will fire are five to one. A power struggle between the couple perhaps – is the bullet a real one, or did Valerie take out the blank and replace it? The couple are played by Anushka Pereira and Rajeev Ponweera.

Marsh Dodanwela will be directing four plays, for the first time. Abandon All Hope deals with Al and Benny arguing on the exact meaning of a sign which reads, "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here." As the director puts it, it is "a clever series of quirky insights." The Best Daddy deals with a birthday present, of a pony, which a father gives his daughter – Lisa, however, the pony is shot dead and the dark twist lies in whether the father or Lisa's older sister kills the pony.

The Lifeboat is Sinking on the other hand, is the scene of Jen and Sherwin sitting safely on their bed. Jen forces her husband to imagine they are caught in a storm and on a sinking boat. With the boat being filled with water; and no life jackets; the husband needs to make a choice – throw his mother overboard or condemn them all to die.

A couple – Mr. and Mrs. Q, are at an exclusive club, which does not allow dogs and is clearly stated on a sign – 'No dogs allowed.' The manager, Mr. Wills, confronts Mrs. Q and the story goes on as to how Mrs. Q tries to make her way out of the sticky situation in which she knows she is doing something wrong. As Marsh puts it, "the way in which she handles the situation is quirky." The play is No Dogs Allowed.
Marsh stressed on the fact that even though his name is mentioned as a director he needs to mention the fact that he along with Rajinda Jayasinghe, who will also be acting with him in all four plays, are more like co-directors, while they are produced by Lalindra Amarasekera. It being his first time directing, he intends to make the performances as interesting as possible.

"The ones I have picked are situations you can possibly envision," Marsh said adding that they consist of "quirky twists." He went on to say that they are all very basic set ups or scenarios which are, "very plausible and very average," and, "how the characters take it forward are often very surprising, dark and quirky," Marsh said.

About directing intimate plays he says, "I prefer it that way," adding that the venue – the Punchi Theatre is "an intimate, personal venue," thus being ideal for such plays. He went on to say that with this type of theatre you can either do really well or you can miss."

Wash and Dry and Blind Willie and the Talking Dog will be directed by Sajith Amendraand produced by Chamat Arambewala who will be directing with SLM for the first time. "It has as much work as a large production," he said of doing intimate theatre, however stating that, it's easier to review and convert little things, and you can take each part and perfect it.

He added they are all dark comedies told in a light way, but the underlying element is serious. "They harbour very deep intentions which could really end up hurting people."

Wash & Dry is about how expectations can change really fast – the scene is set in a Laundromat where the owner George provides you with nothing more and nothing less, and this Laundromat does not clean your clothes. The players are Thushara Hettihamu and Ashini Fernando.

Sajith will be the sole actor in Blind Willie and the Talking Dog. "This is a play about loyalty and the search for a companion," Sajith said. The setting is where Blind Willie sings and plays in a street corner and where his dog, Barney – a talking dog, questions him on why the world's only authentic talking dog should be begging on the street.

Have a Nice Day directed by Anuruddha Fernando is about "a typical advertising nightmare," he says, with – an impossible client, a client serviceman who tries to maintain the peace and the creative person – all at loggerheads, played by Michael Holsinger, Sirraj Abdul Hameed and Jehan Mendis. The impossible task – merging the peace symbol with the smiley symbol! "It is funny, but frustrating," Anuruddha said. Buy One Get One Free will be about Meerilee and Sherilee, two street hookers who come up with an interesting way to market their 'services.' The entire play is in verse, the only time it breaks in to prose is when the client does not fall for their services. The play is funny but the dark side as Anuruddha says, are the "well rehearsed sales to resort to something like this – buy one, get one free," and in addition, the socio-economic situation as to why they have resorted to prostitution. Anuruddha’s plays are produced by Jininda Paranahewa.

Anuruddha went on to say that Shel Silverstein, "is an incredibly gifted writer," in terms of "how he could spin things out of virtually nothing." Thus making all the plots extremely dark and completely twisted, but at the same time funny and interesting. The performances are for adults only. The executive producer for Noir 2008 is Sivvaj Abdul Hameed.

The sponsors are Dialog TV, YES FM, Channel One MTV, Leo Burnett, Video Image, Halien Production House, The Daily Mirror and The Sunday Times.

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