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Sunday, 14 February 2016

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 Drama Review

'Sangadaasage Chooty Kalisama':

Stripped and whipped to forfeit

At a time when the ordinary citizen feels the prick of trade unionism proudly striding on 'strike capability' to make their worth felt in the daily functioning of the country, the Sinhala stage play 'Sangadaasage Chooty Kalisama' (Sangadaasa's Underpants) delivered a timely theatrical critique in the form of popular entertainment. This praiseworthy creation by Asanka Saayakkara was staged at the Punchi Theatre in Borella late last year.

'Sangadaasa', played brilliantly by the award winning actor of screen and stage, Jagath Chamila, is a somewhat elderly villager who comes to a government hospital in the big city to get a fertility test done to prove to his wife that the reason for their childlessness is her 'barrenness' as declared by him and not infertility on his part as suspected by her.

The hospital staff is about to halt work at 1.00 p.m. and stage a strike. The designated place for Sangadaasa to do the needful to produce 'the sample' for the test is an odious latrine, which doesn't 'inspire' him one bit. With time ticking away and the nurse on duty being irked by the old impoverished villager who begins to unburden his woes and is determined to prove to his wife he can sire children, the stage gets set for a theatrical narrative that offers some serious food for thought about the 'climates' that shape our lives.

There are several significant themes in this play that build its hard hitting socio-political critique. Some of the notable elements that weave the schema of critique include -the social awkwardness faced by childless couples today, government institutions being the first and last resort of the impoverished, the myth of equality and equality of treatment from public servants, personal connectivity as the basis for special treatment and influence in the public sector and media manipulation through the press that 'designs' 'news' and 'truths' for sensationalism.

One of the more inward looking focus areas in the play, on the unspoken truths related to the individual as opposed to society at large, is how interpersonal connectivity can engender subtle attractions that may seem absurd on the surface. How 'Sangadaasa', a most unlikely 'Romeo', can gently sway the sentiments of the young nurse and how she too secretly feels flattered by his gestures speaks of the all too human quality of the need to feel one is attractive to, and admired by, the opposite sex.

After a mishap that puts Sangadaasa in the nurses underskirt and his underpants become an object for police investigation and the nurse's 'character' is brought to question after the press has its 'field day', the predicament of the two main characters is clear. They become the victims of a chain of events that were beyond their control and become scapegoats to serve the needs of more powerful factors that design and control the system in which the majority are either merely pawns or spectators.

Finally, after the mass media, which can turn into -judge, jury and executioner - alleges an illicit affair between Sangadaasa and the nurse, based on 'findings' of the police investigation, and there seems no way of clearing their names to regain their reputations, Sangadaasa proposes that rather than remain accused of a wrong they are innocent of, to commit the wrong and then accept it.

'Sangadaasage Chooty Kalisama' is a play I would most certainly recommend for an adult audience but not as a play for the whole family. With a somewhat minimalist stage set, the lighting delivers effectively to the narrative craft when the moment switches from reality to the imagined to the symbolic. The actors, who include Jagath Chamila and Lanka Bandaranayake as the nurse, playing the lead roles together with the rest of the cast offered a worthy performance. It is an insightful drama that will not fail to entertain the audience while driving in a very striking message persuasively.

 

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