The sight was simply awe-inspiring. The swift-footed dancers clad in colourful costumes performed their act with such skill that you are left gasping in wonder and vying to see more. They twirl, leap and flutter across the stage. You never know where the time had gone for you are transported to a fantasy world of toys coming to life.
A celebration of the human body in its diverse forms, Jehan Aloysius’ Nutcracker is based on Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s original tale, The Nutcracker. However he had to manipulate the story to suit the modern context and bring out his own individuality.
* Christopher / Nutcracker - Thusitha Wimalasooriya (Soldier) * Golden Fairy - Anabella Brochard * Toby - Chatura Dayananda (Sunera) * Harry - Indika Bandara (Sunera) * Clara - Chaya Manawamma * Nurse - Upeka Daniel * Toy Robot - Madushanka Seneviratne (Soldier) * Toy Viking - Herath Padmasiri (Soldier) * Toy Soldier - Lahiru Nilanka (Sunera) * Rat King - Indika Bandara (Sunera) * Blondie - Wyomi Abeywickrema * Ben - Chatura Dayananda (Sunera) * Baby Doll and Rag Doll - Upeka Daniel & Anabella Brochard * Clowns - Sajad Shabdeen and Dineth Bhagya * Rats - Wyomi, Sajad, Chatura, Upeka & Dineth
* Devised and Choreographed by Jehan Aloysius * Costumes, Set and Lighting Designed by Jehan Aloysius * Costumes Stitched by Hilma Salahudeen * Publicity Material Designed by Dino Corera
Marking 10 years for CentreStage Productions Jehan and co have staged numerous productions embraced by local theatregoers in the past. One such groundbreaking production is their An Inspired Swan Lake, staged in 2009 and 2010, which featured soldiers injured in battle. Taking a step further in that direction Jehan has engaged soldiers from Ranaviru Sevana and hearing-impaired participants from Sunera Foundation workshops in Nutcracker. It aims to spread the message of hope and courage among those who are living with special needs.
“We call this techniques ‘Body Narratives’. It is a novel and refined form of body language where you explore the beauty of the human body and present it in its creative form. Each posture, gesture and lift created by the dancer expands the vocabulary of the physical language. Moreover, like all languages, the expression of it should be clear and coherent to be understood, though, like all languages, it could also be used poetically and lyrically to create an abstract mood or image that transcends mere communication.
We use theatre to teach the disabled people how to overcome physical and mental challenges while using additions such as crutches and wheelchairs as extensions of the physique,” Jehan explained adding that what is special about this production is that the dancers will be performing lifts which they have not tried out in An Inspired Swan Lake.
Wyomi Abeywickrema who portrays the elegant blond Blondie said that most people look at disabled people with pity rather than consider what they have to offer. “Jehan wants them to be themselves and come out of their shell. He is such a perfectionist.
He has the scenes visualized in his head. It is only at the end that he puts the scenes in random order so even we do not know what to expect till the end,” she mused.
Her counterpart in the tale, Ben doll, is played by Chatura Dayananda of the Sunera Foundation. Madushanka Seneviratne who gives life to a toy robot revealed that he had also worked under Anoja Weerasinghe. Both are part of Jehan’s past productions.
Nutcracker traces an adventure which occurs in a little girl’s birthday night. Clara receives a wooden nutcracker doll as a birthday present from Christopher, the houseboy. During play the nutcracker’s leg was broken off by Clara’s brother. Christopher repairs it but the children discover that he has a prosthetic leg. Then he proceeds to set the rat traps. Suddenly there is a sound and the noise of scurrying feet. Christopher discovers that one of the traps had caught a rat but the rat, being the evil Rat King, casts a spell to shrink Christopher down to the size of a rat.
Meanwhile Clara searches for her friend. The golden fairy shrinks Clara so that she too is the size of a doll. Christopher reappears and the two take a journey, dodging attacks from the Rat King, meeting the glamorous Blondie and Ben and bonding with the other toys before regaining their original size.
Speaking to Daily News ‘Artscope’, Thusitha Wimalasooriya who plays the lead role as Christopher said that he met Jehan after taking part in one of his workshops. The Anuradhapura-born soldier had also played a key role in An Inspired Swan Lake.
Chaya Manawamma who delivers an exceptional performance as the charming Clara had learnt Kandyan dancing from Veesha de Silva. She holds a diploma in scientific learning disabilities and is a past pupil of Musaeus College.
Nutcracker will go on board the Lionel Wendt theatre on April 1, 3 and 4. All the participants are volunteers. The funds will go to One Trust Sri Lanka, the humanitarian arm of Cargills PLC.