A tedious tirade on 'nothingness'
A review of the play Denma Godavenna :
Chuck Palahniuk - author of Fight Club, who's accredited as a writer of
'transgressional fiction' says the following -"Your audience is smarter
than you imagine..." On the 18th of March this year at the Punchi
Theatre in Borella as I watched Gayan Kanishka Rajapaksa's Sinhala play
Denma Godavenna, a rather unambiguous assertion that struck me, as from
the 'intention' in the play's text is that this work seems to presuppose
that its audience is one that cannot be ascribed with much intelligence
and is therefore in dire need of edification. There is an unmistakable
pomposity that projects from the proscenium to the 'misguided mortals'
watching the show. This is by no means a play for audiences seeking
A significant portion of the text (as dialogue) is litanies that flow
and spiral and shootout mostly with little or no aesthetic nuances and
are bare statements impressed as unmistakable, unapologetic
pontificating. It was almost as though the two characters played by
Sarath Karunaratne and Thilanka Gamage asserted they were establishing a
dogma. The gist of this dogma may boil down to - Your lives are
meaningless bound to nothingness and there is really nothing but a bunch
of hypocrisy that you are draped in, and are helping perpetuate every
single day. As bold and grand a statement as it may sound one who
watches the play will see there really isn't any 'revelation' made in
any terms with practical (and certainly not aesthetic) worth to take
note of through this work.
One may see that the colossal dose of philosophising that comes out
attempts to showcase acquaintance with 'veins' of Albert Camus and/or
Jean Paul Sartre, but it is at most a 'vainness' that seems to be the
blood running in the 'veins of the script'. Rather than saying it's an
utterly intolerable play I would say Denma Godavenna demands monumental
accommodativeness from its audience to sit through it for lack of
creative investment made to narrate ideas through aesthetically sound
The Lebanese poet and philosopher Khalil Gibran says in his work Sand
and Foam -"Only once have I been made mute, it was when a man asked me
'who are you?". Denma Godavenna seeks to build a discourse on the
subject of 'identity' as an artificial construction. The question of
individual identity as a socio-culturally constructed notion and
contesting the worth of identity takes on a notable ground. Something I
found rather unconvincing among the outright stated propositions is the
'theorem' of differentiating 'the ego' from one's 'self' and addressing
the 'creature of wants' as separable from the 'self'. A whole lot of
grandiose theorising with very little creative narrative as 'theatre' is
what will strike the discerning theatregoer when watching Denma
The play displays dialectical philosophising touching on a
circumspective sermonising modality while an overt introspective
engagement is projected to the audience. The fact that the performers
consciously state that they are performing a play and performing it for
an audience gives it a facet 'metatheatricality' in the light of how 'metafiction'
is admissive of being not real and being fiction.
Denma Godavenna is not of the theatre of the absurd in the form of
Samuel Becket's Waiting for Godot or Eugene Ionesco's Rhinoceros. But
perhaps it may be seen in the light of a more abstract play driven by
dialogue where a two player performance delivers what is virtually 'a
monologue through dialogic interplay' as delivered by Karunaratne and
Gamage, coupled with a dialogic discoursing set into a duo's abstractly
fictional scenario played by Jagath Manuwarna - who plays a nameless
vagrant born to the streets, and Jagath Chamila who is an unnamed rural
boy turned Royalist (yes, of Reid Avenue Colombo 7). Seeing how their
scenario gets played out I wondered what the top brass of the Dons from
Reid Avenue might think of it!
The acting talent on the boards I must say in all fairness to the
players was good, although Jagath Chamila had some slight slip-ups in
his dialogues at times while Manuwarna delivered without any fumbles.
The skill of the performers is what the performance possessed to gain
and keep the attention of its viewership on a performance that did not
rest on a compelling script. The musical elements I will say added
respite and some appreciable change of 'tone' and were 'instrumental' in
showcasing Gamage's talents as a guitarist and Karunaratne's abilities
as a superlative percussionist with the instrument called the 'cajón'.
In this regard I will say for the record that the performance benefitted
immeasurably from Karunaratne's dextrous barehanded percussion on the
cajón to spur some attractiveness to a performance that drove, at times,
on an unrelenting harangue!