The Mirror Magazine this week met with cast and crew of Ananda College to unearth the “method” to the “madness” that led to the school’s victory as they emerged champions at the recently held boy’s finals of the Interschool Shakespeare Drama Competition 2017. This year marked the 44th year of the Annual Interschool Shakespeare Drama [...]


A memorable evening for Ananda College

The Mirror Magazine takes a behind the scenes look at the winning boys’ school production at the Shakespeare Drama Competition

The Mirror Magazine this week met with cast and crew of Ananda College to unearth the “method” to the “madness” that led to the school’s victory as they emerged champions at the recently held boy’s finals of the Interschool Shakespeare Drama Competition 2017.

Pic by by Dehan Godallage

This year marked the 44th year of the Annual Interschool Shakespeare Drama Competition jointly organized by the Rotary Club of Colombo North and the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) was held at the Bishop’s College Auditorium.

The directorial trio made up of Nishantha de Silva, Ishtartha Wellaboda and Rajitha Hettiarachchi have continued their now 7-year partnership directing the cast at Ananda College together.

Once past students of Ananda College themselves, the directorial trio continue to strengthen the drama initiatives at Ananda College with their past wins at the 2014 Inter-School Shakespeare Drama competition (‘Shakes’) for their production of ‘Timon of Athens’, making it into the finals on four occasions since 2011, and placing first in the 2013 Interschool Drama Competition with their production ‘Alles in Wonderland’ to name a few.

Taking it back to their roots it was way back when – Principal B. A Abeyratne wished to showcase the English skills of the Ananda students. “He pushed us into what was mainstream at that time – Drama,” Nishantha adds as he “restarted” the English Drama Circle in 2006 allowing Ananda College to consistently take part in the competition since then.

Rajitha and Ishtartha ultimately joined Nishantha in the directorial seat in 2010. “We take different approaches in directing,” Ishtartha says speaking of their partnership he adds with a grin at his colleagues “Over the years we balanced each other out.”

Alongside their hefty work load at Shakes the trio established the nonprofit theatre company ‘AnandaDrama’ in 2013 to facilitate the drama and language development activities at Ananda College (this being said AnandaDrama does not comprise only of Anandians) – and this December the theatre company will stage their next original play a political satire titled “Picket Republic” at the Lionel Wednt theatre.

When asked what winning for the second time felt like to these three professionals, Nishantha replies “Winning is nice but it’s not the reason we do this. Theatre is not a competitive tool,” he says. “We look to inculcate a love of the arts and the spirit of the arts.”

The directors say over the years “it’s fantastic” to see the boys at Ananda develop a “passion for theatre as it is a tool to mould their characters and personalities.”
This year Ananda College channelled their inner Hamlet bringing out the stories poignancy and tones of the complexity of the Bard’s work in their allocated time slot of 30 minutes.

Coming to a conclusive concept took almost over a week worth of edits and changes, however Nishantha says “Once we settled on the concept we had an overall feel of the play.”

Pix by M. A. Pushpa Kumara

With the Bard’s ability to divulge and dissect mental health the directorial trio pursued a critical exploration of this concept in Hamlet with Nishantha sharing “ultimately we wanted to explore Hamlet’s madness,” adding “One of our main themes was Hamlet’s indecision.”

Rajitha recalls the challenges the directors faced this year. “Theatre is still fresh at Ananda,” he shares adding that the number of boys auditioning is usually low.

However, this year the directors were baffled by the number of boys excited to audition adding to the ultimate challenge of “how to put them all on stage,” Rajitha confesses. The director’s further share that teaching “a fresh new batch of actors,” was also difficult with having to teach means of learning and appropriately executing Shakespeare.

However, the directors do allow the boys the flexibility of adding their own concepts into the production – Abheeth Kothelawala’s natural dexterity in ‘juggling’ landed him a novel role as juggler in the play.

Not all was smooth sailing behind Ananda’s winning moment in the finals as Gavin Ranasinghe (Horatio) was obstructed from entering for his cue, we are told. The directors who were placed at three different points were in the middle of a frantic conference call as they brainstormed on how to inconspicuously get Horatio back in his place. “40 seconds is a lifetime on stage,” Nishantha admits as they recount that terrifying moment. The senior three cast members; Thilina Udayaratne (Hamlet), Lakshitha Edirisinghe (Polonius) and Gavin (Horatio) laugh off the mishap. They share that the clever improvisation by Malith Kulathilake (Marcellus) and Thilina (Hamlet) managed to guise the error until Gavin was unobstructed and able to join them on stage. “They did a good job controlling the situation,” the directors said commending their cast.

The three boys are batch mates having finished their A/Levels in 2016. Thilina who joined the Ananda College Drama circle in 2010 has played an array of roles like “Fleance” (son of Banquo) in Macbeth while Lakshitha and Gavin joined the drama circle in 2011.

The boys are proud as they recount the many wins for the school at this year’s competition including Lakshitha winning the title of ‘Best Supporting Actor’ for his dynamic performance as “Polonius” whilst Thilina was nominated for Best Actor for his portrayal of Hamlet.

One of Shakespeare’s most famous soliloquies were performed numerous times at the competition. The poignancy of “To be or not to be” tests it’s actors on their proficiency in understanding the complex philosophies of Hamlets words.

Thilina recalls this moment as the highlight of his performance.Being all alone on stage reciting the soliloquy he donned the skin of Hamlet. He shares how he humanised his performance by allowing the indecision and confusion to seep out of his character while he juggled whether or not to partake in Hamlets vengeful acts.

“This is a huge family” Rajitha shares of the cast and crew. Directing has now become a sort of second profession for them. Having no qualms on coming back to school to direct the boys, “It has become a way of life,” confessing to avoiding scheduling anything for September due to Shakes.

The director’s concept of Hamlet fell in line with the script as they tried to avoid the clichés, Nishantha says instead of following “humane approaches” to the Bard’s work. The background of the story is set with the essence of the “Age of Entitlement” kept in mind he shares.

Another climax was the impetus bought out through the back and forth banter between Polonius and Hamlet. Thilina remarks that this conversation was one of the focal points in showcasing the subtle wit and humor in the customarily perceived tragedy.

As young actor Lakshitha shares that participation in the competition offered a “valuable opportunity” and for many young thespians it may even be “a once in a lifetime opportunity”. The boys echo their directors, saying the group have created a framework where it isn’t so much about competing but rather about putting forward a “memorable performance.”

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