Source: Daily News
As Ediriweera Sarachchandra gave the Sinhala theatre a local flavour and a name by taking it to its roots in folk drama Sugathapala de Silva accomplished the task of bringing the new theatre to the audiences of the 1960s. In early 60s, there were many imitators who mindlessly followed Sarachchandra's style. Sugathapala de Silva belonged to a new generation who engaged in Sinhala drama with a sense on it. That generation was consists of well read, internationally exposed bilingual youth either of urban origin or who had come to Colombo and worked in newspapers or related areas.
Apart from being a gifted dramatist, Sugathapala de Silva was an excellent translator. Some of his translations include Ata Messa (Gad Fly by Ethel Lillian Voynich), Godo Unnahe Enakan (Waiting for Godot by Samuel Becket), Hitha Honda Ammandi (The Good Woman of Setzuan by Bertolt Brecht), Amuthu Ilandariya (Funny Boy
by Shyam Selvadurai) and Marasadh (Marat/Sade by Peter Weiss). In speaking of his translation abilities, he has shown his wisdom in using common linguistic idiom in his translations, other than using a mechanically accurate literal meaning. His translations are rich in live and sarcastic dialogues.
His selection of translation and theatrical direction of Marat/Sade (Maraasadh) drove my mind furtherer to think more deeply about Sugathapala de Silva and his contribution in Sri Lankan drama. Marat/Sade was written by Peter Weiss, who is a German Jew. It is a play of history. Furthermore, it's about French Revolution and it's after effects. It has also frequently been seen as an example of the Theatre of Cruelty. This is a play about a play depicting the assassination of Marat, for this is the subject that Sade decides to dramatize with the help of his fellow inmates at the Charenton Asylum. Charenton is an insane asylum where the Marquis de Sade is held incarcerated.
The weaving of time, space, plot, real and imagined characters, sexual liberations and surrealist imagery made Marat/Sade a sensation. Weiss had definite ideas about the purpose of a writer should be. These views ultimately stemmed from his feelings of guilt at having lived through and seen his fellow Germans slaughtered in Hitler's concentration camps, his feelings of not belong to any country and his determination to make his writing mean something more than personal desires. He wanted more than to express sympathy for the oppressed and exploited; he wanted to stand up for them in his writing; to be their spokesman. Marat/Sade is written from a Marxist point of view depicts the debate between Marat representing revolution and Sade representing the 'doomed' Western way of life. Marat wants change through revolution; Sade states that neither revolution nor anything can ever bring about the change that Marat advocates.
Sugathapala de Silva's dramas certainly have a political scope. Maraasadh is the best among them. It is truly admirable that how he has adapted this distanced plot compatible with Sinhala theatre.
Sugathapala de Silva believed that stage dramas have the essential power of changing the mindsets of the ordinary people. He is called as the dramatist 'pleasant dictator' (sonduru agnadayakaya). Sugathapala de Silva is not only a pleasant dictator on stage. He is a rebel in the field of translation and most of all provider of innovative thinking. From Marat/Sade to Funny Boy, he has surpassed the contemporary thinking as well as rigid cultural boundaries.