A daring and powerful show,
"Memories of a Monkey Boy" goes on the boards at the auditorium
of the British School in Colombo, from 15 – 20 September 2007.
This is a Sinhala dance theatre performance with a universal
message that cuts through cultural and language barriers. This
magical dance theatre performance features the awe-inspiring
talent of students of the Abhina Academy, including children
affected by the tsunami and physically and mentally challenged
children from Rohana Special School in Matara.
is spearheaded by eminent stage and film actress Anoja
Weerasinghe, the founder of the Abhina Academy. Weerasinghe has
secured the services of prominent personalities from the British
theatre to collaborate in this venture. This stunning new show
is directed by Wolfgang Stange of the AMICI Dance Theatre
Company, which specialises in integrating performers with and
without disabilities and Stange’s speciality lies in teaching
creative expression through dance and movement to people who are
physically or mentally disadvantaged. Having worked in the field
of theatre and education for 33 years, Stange has taught
extensively in Europe, Asia and America. His particular method
of teaching is known as ‘Dance Dynamics’.
What makes the project unique is that both groups - the
performers and the production team - are from a range of diverse
backgrounds, which brings a specially high level of energy and
excitement to the production. The cast comprises young survivors
of the Asian tsunami and students from the Rohana Special
School. While the production team includes Anoja Weerasinghe,
Dinesh Subasinghe, Swinitha Premaratne, Nalinda Premaratne,
Priyantha Prabash and members of the Abhina Academy of
Performing Arts together with Wolfgang Stange of AMICI, Rob
Thirtle and Julian Crouch of Improbable, Phil Supple and Alison
King from Turtle King Arts.
Set to Dinesh Subasinghe’s beautiful and haunting original
music, the story evolves around the memories of an outcast young
man whose behaviour is different to the rest of the community.
Having grown up with his father’s pet monkey, the boy acquired a
range of simian-like mannerisms, which he displays whenever he
is troubled or under stress. The show is as much a study of the
human mind and its coping mechanisms when dealing with trauma as
it is a commentary on the state of today’s society.
As Wolfgang Stange put it, "This project is very special
because it involves not only people who have suffered in the
tsunami and the aftermath, it also has people who have special
needs, people who cannot hear, cannot speak and people born with
Downs syndrome. This is a unique combination and we are always
learning from each other." Stange goes on to say, "The project
is also very special because the stories have been developed
from the experience of the people who have lived through them.
This makes it very cathartic and helps them somehow understand
why they have to suffer and try to find a way to live life to
the fullest from now on."
HSBC’s involvement in this production is a follow-up to the
successful staging of the Sinhala version of Brecht’s "Mother
Courage and Her Children" in March of 2006, which was a project
undertaken together with the Abhina Academy of Performing Arts.
The performance itself was the culmination of six months of
drama therapy workshops "Therapy through Drama" carried out
throughout the island by Anoja Weerasinghe, together with the
Abhina Academy. The success of ‘Mother Courage’ was important
because it gave the tsunami-affected actors and actresses, the
opportunity to perform in a range of locations within and
outside of Sri Lanka, in addition to winning fourmajor awards at
the National Drama Festival 2007.
Speaking at the press conference, Shiroma Jayawickrama,
Manager Public Affairs at HSBC said, "We have a long-term
commitment to empowering the youth and the differently-abled
through various programmes. Drama is one such way.