Small miracle for Ananda Drama Circle
Adapting Lewis Carroll’s timeless tale ‘Alice in Wonderland’ with a 30 person cast, ages 12 and up, Ananda College’s recent win at the Interschool Drama Competition was by no means an easy victory
The Ananda College drama boys have a game plan that works like a charm. “Have fun,” they tell us simply. “If you’re having fun, then the audience is bound to have fun and hopefully so will the judges!”
The latter is in reference to their recent win at the Interschool Drama Competition organised by the Interact Club of Royal College. The Ananda College Drama Circle sailed to victory with their adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s timeless tale Alice in Wonderland. ‘Alles in Wonderland’ had the audience in stitches, and considering its politically oriented dialogue and fast paced storyline it was by no means an easy victory. We spoke to some of the cast and crew about the finer details of staging an original play.
Rajitha Hettiarachchi and Ishtartha Wellaboda are the director and scriptwriter behind the production. As alumni of the school they’ve been lending a hand for the past three years. In 2011, the Ananda boys secured the runners up title at the drama competition with an original play ‘The Most Lamentable Tragedy of the Girl in Red’, an adaptation of Little Red Riding Hood.
In 2012, they staged ‘He’s Been Writing’, an adaptation of a sombre production. This year, they didn’t even consider writing their own play. “The first time we did it was because we couldn’t decide on a play,” says Rajitha. But now we write our own plays because its just so much easier than squabbling over which play to stage!
They didn’t begin writing with the idea that it had to be political satire, says Rajitha. It was Ishtartha who chanced upon the idea of an adaptation of ‘Alice in Wonderland’. When they had played around with the idea for a while, it seemed like an excellent excuse to present a localised production.
‘Alles’ is a star cricketer from the ‘Land of Small Miracles’ who finds himself waking up in neighbouring ‘Wonderland’ after a rather intense pub crawl. He is immediately set upon by a policeman, who takes him to the ‘Red Queen’ of Wonderland.
The sari clad Queen demands fearful respect from all, including her husband the ‘King’, an extremely small made man in a turban who dare not counter her will. The Red Queen has banned all cricketers from the Land of Small Miracles from her domain and orders for Alles’ death. Salvation comes in the form of muscled lothario ‘None Shot None’, who replicates action moves made rather famous on the local silver screen to rescue Alles from the clutches of the evil Red Queen. What follows is a man hunt of epic proportions.
The initial premise of the play was quite different to the final production which the audience witnessed at the Drama competition. The play was written in a couple of days right after Avurudu and Shevandra Wijemanne began casting the very next day. Casting was probably one of the easier aspects of the production, they say, with many of the characters being written with certain people in mind. The Jabbaarrwucky (better known as the Jabberwockie) for example was written with Nandun Dissanayake in mind, the writers laugh, eliciting a well deserved glare from the thespian in question.
Lithmal Jayawardhana, who played the fabulous Red Queen and won the ‘Most Memorable Performance’ award for his portrayal says that he didn’t really ‘get’ his character till the day before semi finals. “I was taking her too seriously, and I wasn’t particularly fond of her,” he says. Nishantha de Silva (who was instrumental in establishing the Drama Circle in the school) fixed this problem quite simply. He gave Lithmal some videos of the original production for homework and the next day, the problem was solved.
At the semi-finals, they were asked to change the pace of the play which they did, going into the finals. Overall the judges were highly impressed with the level of teamwork the boys had; from the youngest 12 year old to the oldest A/L student.
“Life would’ve been so much easier if we had used experienced actors for the play,” laughs Ishtartha. “But we wanted to get everyone in the Drama Circle involved. So the final cast tallied to around 30 people.” Quite big by the usual competition standards.
Vinura Kularatne (or ‘Alles’), a young thespian who joined the school just last year is thrilled to have been accepted into the fold of the Drama Circle. “These guys made my first year the best,” he says. “That’s the great thing about drama-it really brought us closer.”
Wrapping up, the cast and crew expressed gratitude to their families, friends and the ‘excellent support system’ behind them at school, particularly the Circle’s Master-In-Charge R.R.Rohana.
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