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14th March 1999

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Kala Corner by Dee Cee

Who can forget the unforgettable narrator

Sakala Brahma Sura Nara Mastakayehi Sedu ....... Sri Vibhushita Pa Kamal...........

When Shyaman Jayasinghe recited these words at the Lionel Wendt 43 years ago (on November 3,1956 to be exact) to introduce Dr. Sarchchandra's classic, 'Maname' to an audience starving for quality theatre, the narrator in traditional Sinhala drama was reborn.

Shyaman continued to thrill audiences in this pivotal role for many years.

Many a dramatist who was influenced by Maname preferred to have a narrator but not all narrators could make the desired impact. There is at least one narrator who still sounds fresh after 32 years in the same role. Any guesses? The answer is fairly straightforward-it's Wijeratne Warakagoda in 'Hunuwataye Kathawa'.

It was fascinating to see 'Waraks' (as he is fondly referred to) at the recent production of 'Hunuwataya', performing exactly the way he did on the first night at Lumbini Theatre on March 8,1967. He was as fresh as ever. He has not lost his touch. The voice was as powerful as it was then. His facial expressions were just the same. and he brought so much life to the play from beginning to end. Just one thing had changed. Then, he used to light a cigarette and announce the interval. This time he preferred a soft drink.

Life in black and white

We have been talking much about the impact of black and white photographs. Angelo de Mel's creations proved it once again. His 70 picture exhibition recently at the British Council was titled 'Commentaries on Living II'. The panorama of life, from birth to death that he had captured made the viewer sit and think.

We were told all the photographs were unposed and taken from life as it happened.

The titles were apt and clever. One title - 'Pilgrim's progress' - had a little explanation: "we are all pilgrims on the great road of life" - how true. A Buddhist would go even further and say "just relaxing in an ambalama for a while".

The young, the old and the lonely - they were all there. There were a few I really liked. 'True devotee', for instance, created the right mood - a single lotus in hand along with the bag and umbrella. So did 'A grand kind of love' - old grandparents with the grand child at the bathing well. 'No grass for thy feet' was another. At least eight pictures made one contemplate death.

Angelo also had three beautiful colour photographs. 'Hanky Panky'- a whole heap of hankies for sale, was really fascinating.

Chance to see the better plays

If you are in the mood to see some of the better plays staged last year, keep the dates up to March 22 free. Get across to the John de Silva Theatre and you can enjoy them.

The Sinhala Drama Panel of the Arts Council has selected 16 plays (out of 36) for the second round of this year's Drama Festival (and competition) and these are being staged for the benefit of the panel of judges during this period.

In memory of a friend

That lovable character Karan Breckenridge who met with an untimely death a few years back is missed by all theatre lovers to this day. Veteran dramatist Henry Jayasena worked closely with him, particularly when he produced 'Hunuwataye Kathawa'. Paying a tribute to Karan in the souvenir put out to mark the recent production of 'Hunuwataya' titled ' To Karan Breck - In memory of 1967', Henry reminisces the old times:

You brought ourselves together
The Wendt and the Lumbini
And you brought with you
Four more in a bunch
Mac, Lucky, Joe and Haig
After your Chalk Circle
We played 'Hunuwataya' together...
Not just a night or two
But into long months
Nodding with sleep
Great were those times
You shuttled us home and back
To and from rehearsals
Many were the nights
When you simply stretched
Your long limbs
On our sofa
And went to sleep
And you told me
My dear Friend,
How to play Azdak
"Take it easy"
You said
Relax your bloody head
And shoulders
Be a bloody Rollicking Ball
No knots in Azdak...."
Wisely you said
With that very private chuckle
Private and mischievous
Provocative almost
But I listened
My dear Friend
I listened and learnt
From that slow chuckle
That hooded look......
And I still play Azdak
The way you taught me to
Thank you Friend,
Thank you Brother
Thank you
Much more that I can say.....
For Azdak,
And many other things
In this vicissitude
Called life.....!
If you in Heaven my Friend,
You must be.....
Pray for me
Pray for us
We need
Your Benedictions
In these days
Of madness and mayhem!
You were lucky
In a way
You escaped
The rot
The bloody, unspeakable

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