Mirror Magazine

Discover the ‘Iris’ in you
By Vidushi Seneviratne
“We plan to capture the inner most feelings of every individual in the audience and give them each a spiritual experience,” says Pabulu Wijegoonewardene, director of a seemingly novel production. An interesting experimentation of art itself, Iris promises to make you, quite simply… feel.

An adaptation of the short story Iris by German writer Herman Hesse, the production follows the original storyline, but will be presented in the form of a dance drama. Hesse is famous for novels such as Siddartha, but this fame has also made readers overlook his forte, which is sensitivity. While his characters are most often a result of his capability to understand the connection between life and the external world, Hesse’s earlier creations especially, have a wonderful freshness to them. “This is why we decided to perform one of his lesser known short stories, from the earlier part of his career,” says Pabulu, describing the build up to the production.

So what makes this production different? “The creation has been changed, but the essence is the same,” says Chinthana Dharmadasa, scriptwriter of Iris, going on to explain that the production has absolutely no dialogue and is translated through expressions and movements. Basically a series of visuals, it is neither a drama nor a dance. “What we want to do is try and reach out to every member of the audience. The production will have a totally different impact on each of them, and this is exactly what we are looking for,” he said. “It’s simply a delicate balance between “seeing” and “experiencing.” We refer to it as a dance drama only because the production has to be categorised as something,” he added smiling.

According to Chinthana, dialogue dramas are an extremely common experience for Sri Lankan theatregoers. Since dialogue has the capability of restricting the viewer’s feelings and emotions, he or she most often leaves a production, immersed in the various views and attitudes of the characters. “This is why we are focussing on a more abstract medium than dialogue itself,” he said. The production has no political or social bearing, but will completely focus on the individualistic experience.

The basic plot of Iris revolves around Anselm, a little boy leading a perfect childhood. Living in a village complete with untouched wilderness, he is surrounded by the undivided love and attention of his mother and endless freedom. As a result, the life experienced by Anselm is almost a merging of dreams and reality. “But with the passing of time and the entry of ‘knowledge,’ this casual way of life is gradually forgotten,” said Pabulu, going on to explain that Anselm then ventures into the city in search of materialistic pleasures.

“When the hectic city life begins to overwhelm him, he begins to look for solace from this extreme stress, by regularly visiting clubs and various other night spots.” It’s at this point that he suddenly sets eyes on a female whose beauty takes him back to the memories of his childhood. She is Iris.

Every step taken towards finding Iris is a step taken from his present life, into his past. Unable to get anything tangible from her, the young man channels all the deep emotions and feelings that he is experiencing because of Iris, into finding his inner self. Tearing away all life’s outer surfaces, Anselm finally succeeds in reaching in and touching the “Iris” within him.

The production is a first for Neo Trident, a group of young people who like to describe themselves as “a spiritual entity consisting of independent individuals appreciating life, while striving to bring about a positive change in society.” Basically an aesthetic forum, their medium of communication could at times be a poem, a painting, a performance….

Though Neo Trident is mainly made up of about eight members, Iris is a perfect example of the contributions of numerous people to bring to life the group’s aspirations. “If, for instance, an idea is put forward within Neo Trident, I would develop it in the written form, while Pabulu would interpret it through a dance, and another member of the group would probably create a piece of art with it,” said Chinthana, describing how this truly talented bunch of young people function.

“We wanted to take this specimen of abstract art to a limitless place. We have tried to stretch its boundaries; taking it in one direction up to cinema, and up to a poem in the other,” says the scriptwriter of Iris.

This leaves the viewer with the discretion to interpret its substance whichever way they want. The highlight of Iris is that reality and dreams are not differentiated, making it an almost unreal experience. “If we are able to move our audience and give them each an individualistic experience, we could be satisfied that our production has been a success,” said Pabulu.

While the cast in the production adds up to about fifty members, most of them are still schooling. According to Pabulu, everything from designing the costumes, to creating them and even making the props, has been done solely by themselves, making the production a complete team endeavour. “Initially it was just a few random thoughts, but gradually, with everyone’s individual contributions, the production suddenly began to take a three dimensional shape,” added Chinthana, going on to say that though Iris began just as a ‘playing around with ideas’, it ultimately has been transformed into a relatively large production.

Want to truly feel this experimentation of abstract art? Iris goes on boards on November 6 and 7 at the Bishop’s College Auditorium.


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