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HSBC empowering youth and the differently abled through
"Memories of a Monkey Boy"
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.

The production 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.

 

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