The road home

by Nadeera Seneviratne

‘Stages’ will perform ‘Filling the Blanks’, a play written by five young

writers from the Sinhala and English stage today, and from July 4-7 at

the British Council. A section of the press were shown the first scene of

the play last week.

The road to ‘Kilalipuram’ has opened, they announced on the news yesterday, Sumathi says.

There is silence in the room. Anandi then realises, so that is why he has been so quiet and unhappy.

A verbal struggle between Sumathi and Anandi follows, Sumathi denouncing their present existence which he sees as the lives of refugees, but hurting Anandi in the process, for she and the child she carries, Anandi feels, should be ‘home’. However, for Sumathi, returning to where he and his family were chased away from was gnawing at his mind.

His preoccupation with the road home is such that the playwrights’ idea of portraying the ‘very real dilemma faced by many in our country today,’ at an individual level, is no doubt achieved in that first scene of ‘Filling the Blanks’.

Sumathi (Ravin Fernando) and Anandi (Nadie Kamallaweera) are the two main characters of the play, which has a cast of eleven. The rest of the cast make up what director Ruwanthie de Chickera called the chorus, they act out, as if in the background, key scenes from Sumathi’s past and dreams for the future.

The chorus is effective, and there are ingenious glimmers in the portrayal of real-life Sri Lankan situations, such as the singer at the Fort Railway Station who, with his belek drum and hoarse voice endeavours to entertain the crowd for a few coins, and the cigarette seller with a high pitched nasal voice, who tries to capitalise on the waiting crowd.

In that first scene, Sumathi takes Anandi through an imaginary journey to his childhood home, at first nostalgic and happy. However, when they, in their minds and those of the audience through the chorus and Sumathi’s words have journeyed to the doorstep of his old home, there is friction, as Sumathi then remembers the last struggles of their exodus from the east, the "complete and utter darkness" of that run, portrayed along with the chorus.

Sumathi speaks of returning home after twelve years. The people of this country will forever remember the eviction, ordered that many years ago by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, and it is opportune that we are remembered of the sufferings imposed upon the people of the north and east by the LTTE at this juncture of ‘peace’, whether ‘Stages’ had this in mind or not. They however will be in a position to take a message from Sri Lanka to a more ‘global’ arena, though a complete picture of what this would be can only be obtained by viewing the whole play. For ‘Filling the Blanks’ is also to be staged at ‘Cultureshock’ the official cultural festival of the 2002 Commonwealth Games to be held in Manchester, UK in July this year. The play was developed for these games, and is being staged at home before being toured to Manchester as a prerequisite for entrance. The new play will be performed along with two other plays produced by Stages, ‘Two Times Two is Two’, and ‘Last Bus Eke Kathawa’ in Manchester.

Incidentally, the British Council will also be venue to a re-run of ‘Two Times Two is Two’ from July 1-3. The play was first produced in 2000.

‘Stages’ describes itself as a theatre group committed to developing the talents and interests of young people in various aspects of drama and theatre. In addition to the above, Stages has also been associated in the production of ‘The Last Elephant’, a play that seemed to push for the ‘management’ of our national parks, albeit through means ill-defined.

‘Filling the Blanks’ has been written by Thushara Hettihamu, Nadie Kamallaweera, Namal Jayasinghe, Amal de Chickera, and Sandamali Wijeratne, on inspiration from the real life experience of a friend of one of the playwrights.

The sponsor of ‘Filling the Blanks’ will be Delmege Forsyth and Co. Ltd and the electronic media sponsors are 101.7 TNL and Lite 89.2.