Well-knit and convincing family drama
DRAMA: George Bernard Shaw once said nothing satisfactory
could be derived from this life. Ibsen plays provided some relief. Most
probably oblivious of what the Buddha said about the unsatisfactoriness
(anicca) of life, Shaw depicted how life is reflected in Western
STILL: A scene from ‘Gindarai Adarayai’
Henrik Ibsen brought on stage unsatisfactoriness of life as
understood in Europe. Thus Hedda Gabler spiritually captures the taste
and imagination of the Sri Lankan theatregoer.
The social background against which Hedda Gabler is set, and the
content delineating love, hatred and desire is not different from what
we notice in the Sri Lankan upper-middle class society. Hence its
message both in content and spirit, could easily reach the Sri Lankan
theatregoer by piercing the thin and parochial layers of communication.
It brings out the inner conflict that torments Dulsie due to the
spiritual incompatibility and failure to communicate feelings which
carry the heavy emotions simmering within her soul.
Namel Weeramuni’s ‘Ginnai Adarayai’, an adaptation of the original
Henrik Ibsen play, enlivens the audience. It makes the theory of
alienation redundant. The stage production seems to be only an extension
of our experience.
The Namel-Malini Punchi Theatre with its convivial and compact
theatre structure agreeably designed, naturally establishes a dramatic
intimacy with the audience leaving a lasting joy in their imagination.
Hedda Gabler is the finest production I have viewed at this lovely,
homely Punchi Theatre.
Material possessions of the husband formed the initial inspiration
for Dulsie (Hedda) to get married to him. His intellectual distinction
played a secondary role to the main string of material wealth. However,
his intellectual disposition proved to be a diversion and an impediment
on her smooth flow in marital life.
The play revolves around her romantic aspirations and evolves into a
confrontation with forces offensive to her objectives. Her husband’s
pre-occupation with academic interests transformed her inner
sensibilities replete with desires and fears into one of tragedy.
When Douglas reveals to her that his research work on the history of
cancer is the life and soul of his close female friend, it shakes her
out of her senses. By burning the book she eliminates the main obstacle,
which enshrined the sentiments of love and breath of her rival who stood
on the way to her husband’s promotion to professorial eminence.
Thus while she defended the official and academic figure of her
husband, she destroyed the heart and soul that robbed her of the spirit
of love that had sprung within her. For Dulsie, books symbolised the
honeymoon she spent with her husband, but it only satisfied the inner
claims of her husband, which depended on reading and writing.
Each character of the play, with the exception of Martin, is subtle
and volatile. The solid structure of the play demands a high standard of
thespian performance to which the artists responded well with a
In this production except Malini Weeramuni, every other artist is a
novice yet they performed admirably well to sustain the tempo of the
play and hold the audience attention.
The setting of the stage displaying the sitting room of Dulsie’s new
middle-class home is both fascinating and illuminating.
It was ideally arranged to enhance the effect of performance of the
artists. Its contribution in appearance and composition, complement each
other. The audience feels no separation of the performance on stage from
the spectator below. It was so cleverly enacted.
The costumes are plain and simple but neatly and delicately designed
to match the social status of each character.
The play unfolds on a sober introductory note which soon gathers pace
and momentum to advance with undulating rhythm maintained with powerful
and well balanced presentation and goes on up-to the very end.
Dulsie’s obsession with burning hatred towards the research work of
Douglas is conveyed effectively to the audience with figurative
portrayal of the sound of folk drum music enriched by devil dancing,
reverberating into the atmosphere with the accompanying lighting effect
reaching the climax.
Sinhala theatre as a whole is rich with translations and adaptations
of plays from the West, and Gindarai Adarayai is another worthy addition
to the volume of such stage productions.
It is so well-knit, convincing and bold, the spectators do not feel
the play stealing their undiluted attention and absorption. The
dexterity with which Hedda (Eshanthi Mendis) enlivened the dramatic
situations depicting fine acting talent and intellectual maturity of a
seasoned actress, deserves recognition.