Yauvane: The cries and crisis of a disillusioned generation | Sunday Observer

Yauvane: The cries and crisis of a disillusioned generation

9 October, 2022

On Sunday September 11, Anandadrama mounted on the boards of the Namel and Malini Punchi Theatre in Colombo what was clearly a statement by a generation under crisis.

A statement which was partly a lament, partly the venting of circumstantially churned up frustrations, and partly the collective indignation of present day youth in Sri Lanka in the face of what they see to be a betrayal of their future by the very generation they believed to be the custodians of their future. It is a generation’s open statement of the welling bitterness they can no longer suppress in the name of filial piety. A statement which is very much a charge sheet levelled at their elders who have irredeemably let them down.

‘Yauvane’, which in Sinhala means ‘Youth’, being the title of this theatrical production is interestingly written in a bilingual mixed script of Sinhala and English. A reflection, partly, of the lingual reality of modern Sri Lanka where bilingualism of varying levels is now transforming stratified Sri Lankan society. By and large bilingual stage plays are now catching up in volume adding to the body of Sri Lankan theatre that has gained robustness in both quality and quantity over the last two decades.

And along with theatre companies like Stages Theatre Group, Anandadrama too has contributed over the years, to give bilingual stage plays the potential to gain a distinct space and identity of its own as a separate genre of Sri Lankan theatre and not merely be seen as a subgenre of Colombo’s English theatre.

Pix by Ravin Hettiarchchi

‘Yauvane’ which is a production by Anandadrama, was written and directed by Rithmaka Karunadhara and Rivindu Samadhitha Perera, and featured the acting talents of Rumashi Dissanayake, Malith Kulathilake, Dulina Chandrasiri, Dhehara Waidyasekara, Amandi Kulathilake, Dinuli Mendis, Theruni Indrapala, Abheetha Kotelawala, Ruchith Ranasinghe, Raveen Pabasara, Okitha Karunadhara, Visura Padeniya, and Chiran Gunasekara.

The show was produced by Pankaja Kulatunge and Vinuja Silva. Set, costume and prop design was by Sanduni De Fonseka. Music and Sound Design was by Ama Jayasinghe and Sarisha Senanayake. Lighting was by Dulina Chandrasiri.

‘Yauvane’ is significant in several respects, and one is that it shows a facet of how language skills and social class can be juxtaposed with aspirations and frustrations of the younger generations of present day Sri Lanka. It is in effect very much ‘a creation of its time’. It is very much an outcome of the crushing events that marked the fomenting of justifiable social unrest as Sri Lanka’s economy began tumbling in the first quarter of 2022.

The multifaceted crisis in Sri Lanka and its manifold effects are brought out in ‘Yauvane’ within the context of how a system of ‘mechanized education’ and regimental social rules and values have been thrust upon a youth, which, to be quite honest in my opinion, showcase their vulnerability in the face of hardships that are metaphorically backbreaking and literally soul crushing.

The play, spun together by twelve scenes focuses on two segments of Sri Lankan youth; one being schoolchildren and the other being the under 40 young workforce cadre, which forms a great part of the backbone of any economy. The woes they each have, show the layers of youth problems in the current context of a disillusioned youth now reeling under the impact of the ‘sucker punch’ dealt them by the ‘system’, created by their elders.

Stagecraft was minimalist and adroit, and evinced logistical planning that had the material pragmatism needed for a ‘touring show’, which is what the ‘Yauvane’ production can be called due to having done successful show runs in Kandy and Galle. Costumes too were of a motif that showed more the symbolic position of the actor as a performer rather than a character strictly rendered to befit the likeness of conventional form and craft of a realist stage play. On the acting front it must be noted that solid talent did grace the stage that evening. The debutantes who gave life to the performance should be proud of what they achieved. They all deserve a robust round of applause for what they brought to life on the boards that evening.

Among what was discernible as believably truthful about the reality of the generation sought to be reflected by ‘Yauvane’ is that their outbursts of sadness and agony were true. The screams that churned out and the tears that rolled down were real, and were convincingly of the living person on stage though the stage is (after all) a space for ‘performance’.

That being said it cannot be withheld that the final scene where sentiments of resentment and rebellion were expressed, in part, evinced the naivety of the present younger generations on the subject of power. That naivety was evinced starkly by the placard held up by the character named Govin. A placard that read: ‘Let us takeover’. To a generation of youth keen to drive this country forward to a better future, it must be pointed out that if it is true power you seek, you should know its most fundamental nature. You cannot ask for it, or even demand it. True power cannot be given. It can only be taken.