Kala Korner - by Dee Cee

Happenings on the fourth floor
The term 'Fourth floor' has been synonymous with torture and agony. Mentioning the fourth floor sends shivers down people’s spines, particularly if one is summoned there by the authorities for questioning. When veteran dramatist Namel Weeramuni selected 'Hataraveni Tattuwa' as the title of his new play - the first he has done in Sri Lanka since 'Vansakkarayo' over three decades ago - it was obvious he was going to touch on a theme, which portrayed persecution. As the play progressed, it turned out to be more the antics of a conman, superbly portrayed by a new actor, Rizvan Mohammad.

Since his return from overseas not so long ago, Namel and his wife Malini have been busy building the Punchi Theatre which is fast becoming a popular venue not only for plays but also other activities like book launches. It is a cosy little place, quite comfortable with the new air-conditioning working perfectly. It can house about 200 people.

Once the work on the theatre was over, Namel turned his attention towards training. A theatre workshop with the participation of a professional from abroad brought together a band of keen young men and women. Namel was also planning the new play on which he had been working for some time.

He was looking for a talented new player for the key role when he found Rizvan. He preferred a newcomer to a seasoned player and though he would have had a tough time training Rizvan, at the end he achieved what he wanted. On top of his clever acting, Rizvan delivered his lines well without depending on prompters. Intense sweating didn't bother him - he just kept the audience entertained.

In scripting 'Hataraveni Tattuwa' , Namel had been inspired by 'The Inspector' and 'Accidental death of an anarchist'. However, he based the story on his observations of a notable Sri Lankan who hit the headlines in England for his notoriously ‘smart’ behaviour.

Of course, having been a keen observer of what has been going on in Sri Lanka in recent years, he sharpened the script accordingly. There is a full dose on corruption and abuse of power. In the use of language, Namel tried out some new terminology with good effect - some of them jaw-breaking words used intentionally to generate humour and wit. It was overdone at times making it difficult to grasp the first time.

The cast had just six players plus a chorus. The two seasoned players, Lucien Bulathsinhala and Daya Tennakoon, used their maturity in their roles as protectors of the law. Newcomers Anoma Jinadasa, Seneviratne Bandara and Chaya Nammuni too were impressive. The opening sequence with the chorus moving in through the audience and beginning a catchy tune set the tone for the evening.

Namel tried out an eight-day run to set a new trend for Sinhala theatre. Though not wholly successful, he is not disappointed. He is planning a five-day run in September and expects a better response.

Sinhala version of Marshall's 'Ceylon'
Thanks to Visidunu Publishers, Sinhala readers are regularly fed the Sinhala versions of better known titles originally written by Englishmen during the colonial era. These invariably describe the country and its people and provide an insight into the sociological aspects of the community.

The latest Visidunu publication is 'Sinhale', a translation of Henry Marshall's 'Ceylon - A General Description of the Island and its Inhabitants' - a rather long title. The book was written in 1846.

The Sinhala version is by Ellepola H. M. Somaratne, a trained teacher who ended his career as a school principal and translated a number of well known titles during his retirement. He passed away in 1974 and the current publication has been released to mark his birth centenary.

Starting with Ananda Coomaraswamy's 'The Medieval Sinhalese Art', he has translated John Doyly's 'A Sketch of the Constitution of the Kandyan Kingdom', Major Thomas Skinner's 'Fifty Years in Ceylon' and Dr. John Davy's 'Interior of Ceylon'. Awaiting publication is another book - Coomaraswamy's 'Arts and Crafts of India and Ceylon'.

Rajarata heritage exhibition
In the wake of its informal exhibition in Colombo, Studio Times is busy planning a month’s Rajarata heritage exhibition in Anuradhapura from August 8. The venue is the Nuwarawewa Resthouse.

The exhibition will provide an opportunity for art and nature lovers to enjoy some classy photographs taken by professionals over the past few decades. In addition to gems of history, there will be wide coverage of the Wilpattu National Park and other nature spots.

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