A powerful message through distinctive entertainment
An original English language play with original music, song and dance
offers a breath of fresh air to the Sri Lankan theatre. To make this
experience even more exhilarating is the play’s focus on a social theme,
communicated through rich entertainment that is guaranteed to keep
The play- Sthri Lanka, presented by the Past Pupils Association of
Bishop’s College, is scheduled to go on the boards of the Bishop’s
College auditorium on February 18 and 19.
Sthri Lanka is written by Sandra Fernando, directed by Nafeesa K
Amiruddeen and the music has been composed for it by Shyama Perera (all
past pupils of Bishop’s College).
The playwright, Sandra Fernando, also a poet and writer, has been a
winner of the State Literary Award. She has been a teacher of English
literature at international schools. As a writer, she has been an active
member of the Wadiya Group, editing several of their magazines and
helping to polish the manuscript of Jagath Kumarasinghe's Kider Chetty
Street, the Gratiaen Prize winning manuscript of a fellow Wadiyite.
Her own book, Candle and Other Poems, won the State Literary Award in
2005. She has been invited to read her own original poetry at several
rounds of The Galle Literary Festival. She has written many short plays
for several kinds of audiences (child, family), directing a few herself.
She is an amateur photographer, a classical music freak and has been a
chorister most of her life. She recognizes and responds to skill and
talent in all forms of art.
Nafeesa K Amiruddeen, who directs Sthri Lanka, is a well known
personality in the English theatre in Sri Lanka. She teaches Speech &
Drama and Effective Communication in English and is the drama director
of 'The Performing Arts Company', producing theatre of various genres,
particularly British comedy. Her special interest is fostering theatre
skills in schools and she is involved with drama training at her Alma
Mater, Bishop's College. She has recently been appointed to the board of
the Gratiaen Trust and is also the Deputy Representative of the Sri
Lanka chapter of The Society of Teachers of Speech & Drama-UK.
The cast, made up of past pupils of Bishop’s College, includes Angela
Seneviratne, Ashini Fernando, Shanuki de Alwis, Kamanee Hapugalle,
Manique Mendis, Neomi Dean and Minuka de Silva. The role of the male
protagonist, Thaththi, is played by Mohamed Adamally, a close associate
of Bishop’s College.
Sthri Lanka examines the role of women in Sri Lanka. It is set
against a historical background featuring three great women who were
rulers and queens of ancient Lanka. The playwright cleverly mingles
ancient history with contemporary Sri Lanka as she delves into the role
of modern Sri Lankan women juxtaposed against the role of women of
ancient days with flashbacks from history revolving around the ancient
The playwright draws parallels between the Sri Lankan women of today
and the women of the days of yore and explores the catalytic role they
played in shaping history. She also examines the status of women in
society and their potential in providing leadership.
The storyline of Sthri Lanka is captivating. Akki is about to get
married and she’s up against people who do not understand. This is not
an ordinary love story, though, because Akki’s plight is set in the
context of three women – queens – who did the unthinkable in their day.
Kuveni married outside her people; Anula Devi (47 – 42 BC) elevated
commoners to the throne until she took it herself and ruled in her own
right (she was the first woman in all of Asia to rule in her own right);
Lilavati, wife of Parakramabahu the Great, was enthroned three times
between 1197 – 1212 (for a total of approximately 6 years) during the
unstable period that followed the death of his successor, Nissankamalla.
She was dethroned by claimants, or by those who felt they knew better
and enthroned others, one of whom was Kalyanavathi, Nissankamalla’s
second wife. Kalyanavathi was unable to actually wield authority, while
Lilavati was respected and able to maintain the stability that the
crumbling empire so badly needed.
Like Kuveni, Akki has to face change; like Anula Devi, Akki must make
a difficult choice; like Lilavathi, Akki must face down a challenge. In
her context, change, choice and challenge are, quite simply, the
question of inclusivity.
Commenting on the message that is communicated through Sthri Lanka,
the playwright explained that Sthri Lanka is her response to an
invitation to write something fresh and relevant to Sri Lanka at this
time in our history. In a brainstorming session with the committee that
invited her to write the play, the idea of the role of women in the
history of Sri Lanka arose.
“This is the only country in the world where, if a woman has the same
qualifications and the same experience and the same job as a man, then
she will be paid exactly the same 93% of the time. No other country in
the world comes near us. This is the country that produced Asia’s first
queen – and that was way back in befoe christ (BC). This is the country
that produced the world’s first democratically elected female head of
government. So there is something unique about Sri Lanka and our women
and it has always been so. Have we been blind to the potential of our
women? Is there such a vast difference between the potential of our
women today compared to our women of yesterday? Have we simple never
stopped to consider the point? questioned Sandra.
No matter, Sthri Lanka seeks to provide an opportunity for audiences
to reflect on the role of women in our history and in our current
context. It offers suggestions but no conclusions. It is, perhaps, the
starting point of a new topic of discussion. The playwright creatively
mingles humour and wit with serious theatre and communicates a powerful
message through a rich and distinctive entertainment experience.
With an unusual blend of modern and ancient forms of dancing and
original music, which enrich the theatrical experience, Sthri Lanka,
offers Sri Lankan theatre goers something uniquely different and holds
out the prospect of being a box office sell out!