genies, magic carpets, Eastern adventures, love stories and
so much more......
A whole new world
By Radhika Dandeniya
When you hear the word "Aladdin", what is the first
thought that enters your head? Genies? Magic carpets? Eastern
adventures and love stories? Everyone has their own favourite
part in "Aladdin" and The Yolande School of Speech
and Drama are presenting
their own unique and unconventional version at the Lionel
Wendt on May 10, 11 and 12.
not be a mere Disney cover though, nor will it be the tale
you fondly remember reading when you were little. In May,
amateur child actors and renowned adult dramatists alike join
forces to bring original songs, dance routines and vibrant
acting to the stage. The result: A fresh and lively adaptation
of the Chinese tale we know so well.
the play is Samantha Abeywira de Soysa, head of the famous
school for amateurs in the performing arts since 1994. "Drama
is not an academic subject. It is a learning hands on experience,"
she affirms. This has been her view as well as that of her
mother Yolande Abeywira, the founder of the school. Samantha
herself is highly qualified in the field, having attended
prestigious institutions such as the Royal Academy of Drama
Association in London, U.K.
is mainly for the benefit of children's drama. "They
are all having fun, bonding together and gaining valuable
experience," explains Samantha. Ranging from ages 8 to
16, the cast consists of 140 members from schools all over
Colombo. The play was originally intended for a cast of 70,
yet when many wanted to audition, Samantha decided to let
them all take part. She emphasizes that whilst everyone gets
a chance to play a part, whether it be a leading character
or a Chinese citizen in the background, they are most importantly
"happy" to be there.
the leading characters Aladdin and the evil uncle are not
played by amateur dramatists. "I needed some older and
more experienced members to lend a hand to the young cast
and give them more confidence," Samantha says. Former
member of the acting school and now well known playwright,
Indu Dharmasena portrays the evil Egyptian uncle 'Abazaar'.
Says Indu, "Yolande Abeywira was my 'guru', I first got
into drama when I heard her directing children in a production."
Indu then became Mrs. Abeywira's protégé, starring
in her productions and going wherever she went. "It was
her construction of plays that taught me how to write my own,"
Christopher Stephen plays the 'street-rat' hero Aladdin. Althoug
he's been singing and acting for the past fourteen years he
is not an actor by profession, but continued with drama as
a source of relaxation. When Samantha approached him with
the part he readily agreed. " It doesn't matter what
part you get, because being on stage is fun," he says.
"Of course the bigger the part, the bigger the challenge!"
also has professional helpers. " The whole business of
a play does not rest on the actors' shoulders but on the backup,"
says Samantha, explaining that she and Kumudini Amaratunga
have collaborated with Michael Wijesuriya in making the costumes.
became the chosen influence in dress. The play itself is described
as Chinese with a "tinge" of Egyptian. This is partly
featured in Abazaar's costume, which is based on Arabian styles.
"The play is Chinese but the Evil Uncle element is Egyptian,"
says Samantha. However the rest of the costumes are Chinese.
David is responsible for the singing and musical accompaniment.
Singing allows the actors to explore their roles. Christopher
explains that Aladdin being a very "lovey-dovey"
character in the play, therefore does not allow much scope
for his acting. However, one part he enjoys most is the song
he sings 'I'm in a Soup', where he gets to act differently.
dance teacher Oosha Saravanamuttu trains the dancing routines.
Samantha regards her as one of the most professional in the
field, equipped with a vast amount of experience in choreography.
Oosha has also worked with Yolande Abeywira herself in the
Designer of the Year 2001 (as well as 2000 and 1999) Shiromi
Misso is the set designer, producing scenes from both China
Misso (15) plays heroine "Princess SeyWhen" (a comical
pun on the phrase "Say when"). She has been a member
of the Yolande School for two years. "I love drama where
you can immerse yourself in a character," she says. Princess
Seywhen appeals to Shannon because she is so different from
herself, i.e shy, submissive and always listening to her mother!
would not be Aladdin without the magnificent genic 'A La Kazam'.
15-year-old Damith Kulatunga takes on the role and given his
imposing stature, it can be seen why he would be perfect for
the part. Damith also admits that he is an avid reader of
fantasy therefore playing the genie is a great opportunity.
An accomplished pianist and soprano, he is described as a
very talented and "versatile" actor. Damith hopes
to continue his acting career; "I have an inclination
for drama, it's life sustaining for me. To be on stage is
special features of the play are a rendition of the Disney
classic 'A Whole New World' and a cameo performance by a dragon!
for the show are now on sale at St. Bridget's Convent. "Aladdin"
is sponsored by 'Nestle Lanka', 'KFC' and 'Access International
Sri Lanka Ltd'.