Mirror Magazine

Setting the stage for ‘R&J’
By Marisa de Silva
Speaking to Feroze Kamardeen, the man set to unfold ‘one of the greatest love stories ever written’, I’m told about the making of ‘R&J’, and given a little insight into the characters and the play itself. Anuruddha Fernando, assistant director cum Friar Lawrence (in the play) also shares his input on what happens behind the scenes.

Having started work on the production about a year ago, the director seems to be quite at ease now, with only about a month and a half to go. Going on board at the Lionel Wendt this October, this huge production is an ambitious challenge taken on by Feroze. Managing to successfully incorporate contemporary music into a Shakespearean classic, is no easy feat. As Feroze and his accomplice, Anuruddha reveal, it’s been approximately a year of strategic planning and organising, which has lead to the creation of the version of ‘R&J’ theatregoers will soon witness.

When Yes FM’s creative team approached Feroze to do a musical for them, as an internal event, he looked to the original work of the Bard and realised the full potential of “the story of the two star crossed lovers”. However, Feroze had a few reservations as the story seemed a “bit top-heavy,” suggesting that it would require a huge cast. However, after a chat with co-conspirator, Anuruddha, he had seen the feasibility of the play and thus, ‘R&J’ it was to be!

At the editing stage, they had to cut, chop, add and subtract to see how best they could tighten the script, whilst keeping the essence of the play intact. “Personally, I think, (with no disrespect to the Bard, intended), Shakespeare wrote in a lot of detail, probably to give thespians time to change costumes etc.,” says Feroze.

With a complete script, music had to be incorporated into the play in a way that it didn’t disturb the smooth running of the production. According to Anuruddha the music helps the actors express their emotions better and helps maintain the audience’s attention by breaking the monotony of the play. The music will also help audiences process what they’ve seen and heard on stage and although, practically everyone knows the basic story of ‘R&J’, not many know the nitty-gritty of it. Therefore, the music will facilitate better understanding of the play, he says.

At the casting phase, acting was the primary criteria as songs could be cut off but the acting couldn’t be compromised on. Every lead role was “hand picked,” and the rest too were gradually selected according to the compatibility of each role to the artiste. Once the cast was finalised, the merging of dialogue with song began, either as soliloquies or group numbers, said Feroze.

“Although, we started off experimenting with various songs and where they would best fit in to the play, on a ‘trial and error’ basis, it worked out much better than expected” added Anuruddha, so the music aspect had begun to kick off as well. Although they’re using many contemporary songs, some of the lyrics had to be changed to make sense in the play. Ranil Gunawardena helped with the music compilation and Ranga Dassanayake from Hit Factory helped with creating the soundtracks. They also had the expertise of Soundarie David, who helped with the voice training.

Why ‘R&J’ I ask? To which the duo say, it’s a result of a thoroughly researched, well thought out campaign for the play, as they do prior to each one of the StageLight&Magic Productions. Leon Rajaratna who is mainly in charge of the creative work for the play’s publicity and promotions campaigns, designed the ‘R&J’ logo and spearheaded the concept of educating students on the play through competitions held via Interact Clubs and the newspapers, he said.

Covering all possible aspects, they seemed to have fulfilled their credo of “getting as close to perfection as possible,” they say with pride. Jointly presented by Yes FM and Mobitel (Main Sponsor), with Golden Key as Co-sponsor, HP&S Advertising (Pvt) Ltd. coming in as the official advertising agency, ‘R&J’ will take the stage this October at the Lionel Wendt. The costumes are by Sonali White. The official print media sponsors are the Daily Mirror and The Sunday Times.


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