Mirror Magazine


Real-life drama from Delon
By Marisa de Silva
Talented young playwright cum actor/director Delon Weerasinghe is back with his original play, Thicker than Blood. First staged last year, Colombo audiences were taken into the world of a crippled, young soldier, frustrated by the reality of being homebound and having to face pressure from his politician uncle, to enter a new world.

Set to go on the boards of the Lionel Wendt Theatre on March 28, 29 and 30, this is a production that focuses mainly on the acting and the plot rather than on special effects and additional frills.

The second Sri Lankan since Ruwanthie de Chickera (in 1996) to attend the Royal Court Residency for International Playwrights (2001), Delon's experience of working with award winning, international directors and playwrights has helped him develop and grow in his capacity as both a director and playwright.

Delon was subsequently commissioned to write a play for an International Human Rights Festival, making him the first South Asian to be commissioned by the famous London theatre.

Delon has just completed his second commissioned project with the Royal Court and the BBC World Service radio titled Webs We Weave. A collaborative writing venture with 10 young writers from around the globe, the play titled We are Water, will be broadcast on BBC World Service later this month.

Thicker than Blood was produced in India for Stagerite, a festival of new writing in English with an Indian cast directed by V. Balakrishnan, a graduate of India's prestigious National School of Drama. The festival took place at the J. N. Tata Auditorium in Bangalore last October.

So what's the Colombo production like? "Thicker than Blood will be a direct face-to-face confrontation with its audience. People can take home with them, whatever they feel comfortable with. I don't want to beat one specific message into their heads. My play has much to offer, take from it what you will," says the realistic Delon.

The story in a nutshell, revolves around a young war hero, Suresh (Delon Weerasinghe), who gets injured in battle in the Wanni and is rescued by an old stranger (Arun Perera), who changes his perspective on war and politics forever. The plot thickens, when Suresh is made to deal with the reality of being a cripple and the pressures exerted on him by his family, who attempt to use him as a tool in their political campaign, advocating war.

A year after his miraculous escape, now retired from the army due to his disability, Suresh finds it difficult adjusting to civilian life. He lives with his brother Harsha (Mohammed Adamaly), his sister-in-law Maithrey (Romany Parakrama) and their son Dinesh (Suranjit Tillekewardene). He is depressed and has no clear plans for the future when he is invited to join a nationalist political party by his uncle Kithsiri (Shanaka Amarasinghe).

Suresh refuses to take his brother's place as a candidate. Kithsiri Bappa tells him that this is his destiny and that he had chosen Suresh for this moment much earlier. What his uncle reveals next is the shocking truth behind a lie Suresh has had to live with ever since the night he was rescued. Shocked by this revelation, Suresh tells his uncle that he will never agree. At the end of his patience, Kithsiri threatens him and gives him an ultimatum, "join us or else..."

A veteran in the theatre scene, Romany Parakrama (who plays Maithrey) says the play is very relevant to Sri Lankan society. Her role depicts the typical career woman, having to compromise her career to bring up her son. However, due to the lack of communication between herself, her husband (Harsha) and her son (Dinesh), her whole world seems to be collapsing before her eyes. Her desperate attempt to hold everything together is to no avail and she is powerless to change anything in her life.

"The relationship between Maithrey and her brother-in-law (Suresh) is left open to interpretation. I'm lonely and have nobody to turn to. Suresh is always at home and fills the void of not having Harsha around, so having some sort of special relationship with him, is nearly inevitable," she says. "This kind of circumstance is quite common in today's context and can be easily related to by society, as it's very Colombo-based," says Romany.

Although this play has been hyped as a war play, portraying its atrocities and after effects, labelling it thus would be unfair," says Shanaka Amarasinghe. "The play deals with many average people's emotions and lifestyles, therefore, it does not essentially focus only on the war and its repercussions," he adds.

"Take for instance, my character (Kithsiri) in the play. He's the most evil, omnipotent figure in the drama. His manipulation skills and influence on all the members of his family is great. However, he has much credibility attached to his name, as he knows exactly what he wants and will do whatever it takes to get it. Therefore, he is in a way, a man with a mission who will go to any lengths to achieve it," says Shanaka.

"During our last run, when people laughed at things I said, ironically, they were actually laughing at themselves 'cos, I said things that would make people uncomfortable as they can identify with certain outlooks of mine," he says with a laugh.

"The most challenging part of my role was to stir up empathy within the hearts and minds of the audience. If I wasn't successful in fulfilling this role in the play, then all my efforts would have been fruitless," says Arun Perera. Playing the old Tamil man, who saves the life of a Sinhala soldier, was quite a task. "Changing Suresh's jaded mindset and making him rethink his entire outlook on life is my main achievement in the play," he adds.

Meanwhile, young Dinesh tries to enlist his uncle's help in order to join the Army. Suresh tries to dissuade him but his nephew is determined. He tells Suresh that he will ask his uncle for help. Faced with the prospect of seeing his nephew being manipulated in the same way he was, Suresh has to make a tough choice, sacrifice his life or his soul.

A play that'll leave your mind in turmoil and will trigger your conscience into wondering what life really is all about, Thicker than Blood is a combination of the hard work of a young playwright, brought to life by both veteran and youthful actors, with a theme that is both powerful and relevant, to the present day. All theatre lovers, come prepared for an evening full of real life drama.

Tickets for the play are available at the Lionel Wendt.

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