This year’s Inter School Shakespeare drama competition did see some interesting surprises including a ‘bhairava yaka’ standing in for Oberon in an adaptation of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the girls round of competition. Starting things off with the girls – Sirimavo Balika Vidyala’s version of ‘A Mid Summer Night’s dream’ portrayed the tale as [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Time for Shakespeare


This year’s Inter School Shakespeare drama competition did see some interesting surprises including a ‘bhairava yaka’ standing in for Oberon in an adaptation of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the girls round of competition.

Starting things off with the girls – Sirimavo Balika Vidyala’s version of ‘A Mid Summer Night’s dream’ portrayed the tale as a very gothic and rather dark play. This adaptation of Shakespeare’s most famous comedy did not seek laughter from its audience instead it focused on the darker elements and heavy sexual undertones in the story. Absolutely stunning backgrounds along with choreography and music that can only be described as insanely cool, cleverly detracted from the actors’ portrayal of their characters. However the school, failed to make it into the finals. Kudos though, for what was possibly the most gripping drama of the day.

Determinedly hilarious was finalist Girls’ High School Kandy’s ‘local take’ on the play. Set in pre-colonial Kandy, this one had its two feisty ladies in osari’s, wriggling their hips and dropping ‘aney’ tones for all they were worth. ‘Liiisanderrr’ and Demetrius were portrayed with what one can only describe as Sri Lankan panache. Helena was the lady of the day, delighting audiences every time she came on stage with a perfectly executed Sri Lankan auntie-accent. A memorable performance was put on by the character of Oberon, portrayed as a ‘Bhairava Yaka’, with very Sri Lankan undertones of the play.

Ave Maria’s version was packed to the brim with tribal dances, much baring of teeth. Once again, this was a comedic interpretation of what is after all a comedy. However, light-hearted – it was not. It managed to combine some gripping drama along with the hilarity of the play. While Ave Maria did not deliver the goods as expected, the performance was a stand-out for the day, and garnered them an entry into the finals.

Holy Cross College did a contemporary version of the same play with modern clothes but stuck to Shakespeare’s dialogue. It was St. Joseph’s College that won the hearts of the audience. Excellent use of humor, authentic ‘actresses’, props, sounds and projection well preserved the true artistic quality of Shakespearean drama. The actors were able to guide the audience from laughter to pin-drop silence in seconds. As for the cast of D.S. Senanayake College which took to the stage also with the same play offered some good acting and good projection of the voice. They will once again take the stage at the finals. In for the win as well, was Maris Stella College with an excellent traditional portrayal and double-innuendoes were prominent. They also held the attention of the audience with understandable dialogue and the response from the audience was evident by its offer of the loudest applause.

The delivery of the play Romeo and Juliet while a bit disappointing, at times did have those occasional stand out moments. However, Bishop’s College was able to take home a coveted finalist position with their version of the play. The star-crossed lovers swooned and swooped on stage, with the character of the nurse being suitably hilarious and Juliet’s father an absolute stand-out, thundering his disapproval and throwing his daughter across the stage as if she were a doll. Juliet herself was portrayed as immature and slightly selfish, perhaps an apt portrayal of a young girl who is meant to be just twelve years old.
While many versions of the star crossed lovers portrayed by the schools did touch on the theme of love the play by Newstead Girls College was set around the aristocracy of the 20th century, the prince was depicted as an army general and the dagger that killed Juliet was replaced with a gun. It was a full adaptation with excellent acting.

Vidyartha College, Kandy did a traditional portrayal-the outbursts of the father were strong enough to make even the toughest of the audience cringe. St. Benedicts depicted the emotional highs and lows of the last scene with panache, making it into the finals. St.Thomas’ College, with their beautifully detailed costumes coupled with some excellent acting kept the audience spellbound. Ananda College went for a 60’s adaptation of Romeo & Juliet in which the comedic element triumphed over the tragic. St. Peters’ College triumphed in Friar Lawrence where he explains the tragedy to the audience. The spotlight for the day was snatched by Royal College, with their undeniaby excellent acting and very impressive space management. Marcutio’s death stunned and Romeo’s eventual helplessness bought a tear to the eye. Royal College’s performance is one to be looked out for at the finals. ‘The Winter’s Tale’ was performed to markedly different reviews by two schools. Sujatha Vidyalaya’s adaptation disappointed, while Gateway College Kandy thrilled. While the former’s attempt was well thought out, there was something missing in the portrayal. Gateway Kandy however had an absolute star in the character that played King Leontes, the man who mistakenly accuses his wife Hermione of infidelity and eventually faces the consequences of his actions.

This was perhaps the best performance of the day-the dialogue and movements were spot on, the solo scenes were performed to pin-drop silence and it sent a shiver down one’s spine when King Leontes found his wife and son dead. This was the only production where delivery of dialogue was not rushed through in favour of emotion, and the effort put in delivered the anticipated outcome for the audience – especially being able to comprehend what was being said on stage. Needless to say, Gateway is on the cards for the finals. “Et tu,Brute?”- Julius Caesar’s legendary words were given many interpretations on the second day with Loyola College (Girls) who made excellent use of background music and their grave and dramatic performance was commendable. However, a weakness found among many performances was their lack of movement.
In the version by Kingswood College Kandy, prominence was given to Brutus’ betrayal and the strength of his envy, and Marc Antony’s loyalty and modesty. Visakha Vidyala, Colombo’s version saw the girls dressed in blacks, reds and floor sweeping capes. The high-heeled beauties of the senate and the witch who made appearances in the evil scheming parts certainly gave the audience something new to think about.

Loyola College (Boys) portrayed Brutus as a man provoked to obtain greatness by killing. The mutiny within the capitol was very captivating and it was perhaps the best portrayal of Caesar’s death. St. Anthony’s College, Kandy offered a traditional take to the play and Trinity College, Kandy used minimum props with focus on their acting, which earned them a place in the finals.
Wesley College was the only school that performed Henry V. The school, which used a rather eerie harmony of male vocals for background music, had a star in one very young boy who gave what was probably the best theater performance of a dead body Colombo has seen so far.

The finals of ‘Interschool Shakespeare Drama Competition 2012’ organized by the Colombo YMCA and Rotary Club will be held at the Bishop’s College Auditorium from 6pm onwards. The girls’ finals will be held on October 5 and the boys’ finals will be on October 6. Tickets are priced at Rs.750 and Rs.1000 and are available at Ticket Shop, No:113, 5th Lane, Colombo 03 and on

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