Source: The Nation
Banadranayake, as Lancelot, eliminated the dragon or Makara uthumanang, in a single-handed battle he was engaged in for over 23 years — certainly making one’s eyebrow raise. The youthful persona of Lancelot, who took to the stage in mid ’70s, was skilfully revived by Wasantha Wittachchi, the age of the artiste becoming secondary to the ‘goods delivered’ with such a flair
Walking into Parakramabahu Vidyalaya in Narahenpita, where rehearsals of Dharmasiri Bandaranayake’s Makarakshaya were in progress on a Monday afternoon in June, held no sign of an eventful ending of a day. With a round of refreshments, the rehearsals commenced, dragon or Makarakshaya’s fiery thud engulfing the vicinities. The ‘sinned mortals’ of a city terrorised by a blood thirsty creature, shriek in mortal fear. In a split second, the dramatist’s thunderous boom itself silences the mortals present at every corner of the hall, suddenly oblivious to the blood-sucking mosquitoes of the real world at dusk. Emotions run riot, frustration of an artiste seeking perfection is felt heavy in the air, a mobile phone is scattered into fragments, some picking pieces in a futile attempt to re-assemble… Young minds of the cast assume (fortunately) that it’s an integral part of the drama itself! Bandaranayake roars with clenched fists, urging to bring out the potential of each artiste…
A fortnight later, at the Wendt, when Lancelot killed the dragon and festivity followed in every nook and corner of the once terrorised city, backstage flooded with trickles of merriment, thumping on the backs, words of congratulations, few of us who witnessed the labours of a creation in a humble school hall, a dramatist’s anxiety and the crusade till the final curtain draws, shared a knowing smile - that ‘it was all worth it.’
Bandaranayake proved his theatrical mettle once more to the first-viewer of much acclaimed Makarakshaya, and undoubtedly, to the faithful viewer of yesteryear, lost in a reverie of fond memories. A political satire in its best, subtlety closer to the contemporary audience than ever before, Makarakshaya manifested a persuasive theatrical attempt, a footprint left in the soul of the theatre lover, not easily concealed.
Banadranayake, as Lancelot, eliminated the dragon or Makara uthumanang, in a single-handed battle he was engaged in for over 23 years- certainly making one’s eyebrow raise. The youthful persona of Lancelot, who took to the stage in mid ’70s, was skilfully revived by Wasantha Wittachchi, the age of the artiste becoming secondary to the ‘goods delivered’ with such a flair.
Dharmapriya Dias of Machan fame, added another feather to his cap as nagaradhipathi or the mayor, stealing the show, versatility apparent in every gesture. The complex story line delivered to the audience, with effortless portrayal by Dharmapriya, together with Chulla Jayawardana as the cat, evoked laughter, not merely at verbosity coupled with witty repartee, but at the rulers attempting to achieve their ends at the cost of those ruled. Needless to say that Lakshman Mendis reaped the harvest of his experience, stepping into the shoes of the dragon with ease.
Sadly, the drama failed in the hands of Elissa, one of the lead roles portrayed by Yashodha Wimaladharma. Although the feminine charm of Elissa was given life by Yashodha, the vigour of the character- the very cornerstones of it were not done justice. Her voice barely audible, contradicted the basic rudiments of stage play. In the light of the former artistes playing Elissa (Swarna Mallawarachchi and Ramani Bartholomeusz) Yashodha’s portrayal appeared as one grossly lacking ‘life’.
The mastery of the director deserves credit in localising the drama, whilst preserving the original flavour of Yevgeny Shvart’s political satire, carefully exploiting devices such as costumes. Little known faculty of Bandaranayake as a dress designer, deserves compliments, the costumes of the cast proving one-of-a-kind, with chic added to by the flawless cut of Chiranthi Mallikarachchi- the maiden effort of the latter in an endeavour of this nature, which truly deserves encouragement. The headpiece of the dragon, a masterpiece by Vimal Jayawardana, could send waves of shudder among the audience, while the choreography of Jehan Aloysius, struck a fine blend of anxiety and festivity, latter prominent in the celebrations marking the end of the dragon.
Despite the conscience realising the truth, the human race often leads an existence of indifference, buffered by façade. Makarakshaya certainly pricked the conscience of such superficial existence. The dragon was annihilated, yet, can it extend to the dragon within all of us? Shvart once questioned, so did Bandaranayake. The artistic effort of addressing the human conscience is a mammoth task that no other medium can attempt to attain, which Makarakshaya did with such finesse.
Makarakshaya will be staged once more at Lumbini Theatre on July 23 and at Lionel Wendt on August 15
(Photo credit: Udeni Alwis)