Epitome of Sri Lankan theatre | Sunday Observer

Epitome of Sri Lankan theatre

30 October, 2022

There must be an end to every battle: either victory or defeat. After winning or losing, can the same battle be rekindled year after year? A never-ending battle. On one side is the lover. On the other side is the villain. In between is a woman who is in battle with her own heart.

For 66 years, many generations have been able to relive the experience of this infinite duel. The creator has left this world long ago, leaving the battle on the stage, yet his creation lives on.

How amazing is it, to have a play composed by a certain artist be staged, in both local and theatres overseas, for over half a century after its production? The ideal example of such a work of art is Maname by the doyen of Sri Lankan Theatre, Prof. Ediriweera Sarachchandra.

Among his many creations, the classic Maname is one of the creations that kept the audience stunned from the day of its production till today. Maname was first staged at the Lionel Wendt theatre in Colombo, on November 3, 1956 and has been drawing crowds to wherever it was staged ever since.

Poetic sophistication and theatrical craft

Its literary and theatrical accomplishment is possibly unrivalled, and unmatched. It is a combination of poetic sophistication, and theatrical craft, in which the elements in the folk theatre tradition and folk beliefs have been adapted to the modern stage. The play is partially influenced by the Jataka Story, Chulla Dhanuddara Jathakaya.

Valuable elements of the Sri Lankan folk culture based on local traditions such as Naadagam and Kolam were not developed historically due to the country’s poor political, economic, and underdeveloped systems, and they drifted away from us. Yet maestro Sarachchandra has managed to preserve those precious, long-lost elements through Maname. The play still survives as a result of his attempt to create a unique Sri Lankan tradition like Operas of China, Noh kabuki, Bunraku, and Kyogen of Japan, and folk dramas of India.

Maestro Sarachchandra takes the audience’s perception of ‘women’, to a critical level through Princess Maname, who is caught between the power struggle of two men, Prince Maname and the Veddah King. This year marks a significant milestone of this evergreen creation of Sinhala theatre, the 66th anniversary of its first performance, and celebrations are planned at the University of Kelaniya.

Tribute ceremony

With the reopening of universities after the Covid-19 pandemic and the string of crises that followed, enjoying works of art that relax your body and soul, is apt for everyone including undergraduates. With this intention, the Department of Sinhala of the Faculty of Humanities, the Sinhala Society, the Drama and Theatre Unit, and the Academic Players - the Arts Council of the University of Kelaniya, have organised a performance of Maname and a tribute ceremony.

Two performances of the play will be staged at the Dharmaloka Hall of the University of Kelaniya on November 3 at 3.30 pm and 6.30 pm. Mahēduru Saraccandra Prāmā Suyāmaya, will be held to pay tribute to the 66 years of unfailing theatre tradition of Maname, and to appreciate the contribution of Lalitha Sarachchandra, who has continued Prof. Sarachchandra’s drama tradition and other artistes of the drama.

‘66 to Maname’, a commemorative collection will also be launched on the occasion. Kelaniya University Vice-Chancellor Senior Prof. Nilanthi De Silva will be the chief guest. Although Maname ages with each passing year, it not only entertains but also enlightens the generations of today and tomorrow.

Maname, the epitome of Sri Lankan theatre, is a futuristic drama that will continue to entertain and enlighten the hearts of audiences for years to come.