Maname and Sinhabahu at Nelum Pokuna:

Sunday Observer (Sri Lanka)

Legendary plays to kick off new era in theatre

By Anuradha Kodagoda

Maname/Sinhabahu – Landmarks in Sinhalese theatre ‘Maname first’ staged on November 3, 1956 at the Lionel Wendt Theatre, Colombo and it is incontestably the greatest landmark in the history of modern sinhalese theatre.

Highly acclaimed by critics and enthusiastically received by audiences throughout Sri Lanka and the world.

Maname is based on the well-known Buddhist story belonging to the Jataka stories (Birth stories of the Buddha) known as the Chulla Dhanuddara Jatakaya. Maname gave modern Sri Lankan theatre resurgence and provided a cue for the discovery of the roots of Asian theatre. It was an outstanding combination of theatrical craft, poetic sophistication and dramatic concentration in which the essential elements in the folk theatre tradition were adapted to the modern stage.

Maname has not only stood the test of time but also profoundly influenced the course of Sinhalese theatre. It could indeed be said that without Maname, Sinhalese theatre would not have progressed the way it has. Maname occupies a unique place in the annals of Sinhalese drama. No other play has generated so much critical discussion, inspired so many playwrights or produced so many imitators. It is invoked as no other play is, as the touchstone of dramatic excellence. Its popularity remains undiminished to this day.

A significant feature of Prof. Ediriweera Sarachchandra’s contribution to the national cultural history of Sri Lanka was the leadership he gave in defining the place of tradition. He was not for blind imitation or for the mere revival of tradition. He utilised tradition to create new works of art. In his plays he preserved the basic form of the nadagama but refined it to suit the needs of the modern theatre. The operatic character, the song and dance, the narrator, and the stylised tradition remain; their use however is different. Sarachchandra’s purpose is essentially dramatic. He combined the new with the old, the traditional with the modern, the sophisticated with the simple to achieve a brilliant blend that proved to be a trail blazer in addition to being very fine theatre.

‘Singhabahu’ will be staged at Nelum Pokuna Mahinda Rajapaksa Theatre on April 1 at 2.30pm and 6.30pm. ‘Maname’ will be staged at Nelum Pokuna Mahinda Rajapaksa Theatre on April 3, at 6.30pm.

The legendary dramatist Prof. Ediriweera Sarachchandra’s remarkable plays ‘Maname’ and ‘Sinhabahu’ will be on stage on April 1 and 3 at ‘Nelum Pokuna’ (Lotus Pond) Mahinda Rajapaksa Theatre. It is to set a landmark of completing 55 years for the ‘Maname’ and 50 years of ‘Sinhabahu’ as well as enlightening the Sri Lankan veteran and upcoming dramatists that the ‘Nelum Pokuna’ Mahinda Rajapaksa Theatre is open for upcoming drama productions.

Though it is very short period of time of operating the ‘Nelum Pokuna’ (Lotus pond) Mahinda Rajapaksa Theatre as a performance centre, so far there were several productions especially musical and dance performances which were successfully performed.

“The Nelum Pokuna (Lotus Pond) Mahinda Rajapaksa Theatre is fully equipped as an art performance centre and it is completely dedicated for large scale theatrical productions. It consists of two venues for performances, which includes the main auditorium and an open air amphitheatre.

However, so far Nelum Pokuna has been attracted mostly for the music and dance events which we wanted to promote as a theatrical production centre as well, because this is fully equipped according to international theatre standards.

Therefore, we want to popularise Nelum Pokuna among theatre lovers and the theatre directors for them to use this place for their productions. Hence, to get the initiative, we thought it would be a great commencement to stage the legendary dramatist Prof. Ediriweera Sarachchandra’s ‘Maname’ and ‘Singha Bahu’. The reason we wanted to select specifically these two dramas to be staged is because of its historical value and ‘Maname’ and ‘Sinha Bahu’ are the greatest classics of Sinhalese Theatre.

Therefore, as a tribute to Prof. Ediriweera Sarachchandra who could cultivate aesthetic values and culture in our country we hope it will be a brand new beginning to Nelum Pokuna and its audiences to start its theatrical journey from these two classics,” said the Director General/ Chief Executive Officer of Nelum Pokuna (Lotus Pond) Mahinda Rajapaksa Theatre, Col Senarath Niwunhella.

“Nelum Pokuna has been identified by most of the Sri Lankan audiences as a high cost venue and it is common with most of the dramatists as well. Therefore, most of the artistes, especially dramatists are reluctant to organise their events at the Nelum Pokuna, due to the cost factor. However, so far the events which had been organised at Nelum Pokuna had favourable participation.

It is understandable that unlike other theatres in the country, Nelum Pokuna is costly and people can have a doubt whether they can administer their costs. However, Nelum Pokuna cannot merely be compared to other theatres in the country, because this is a huge investment and built according to international standards.

Therefore, the experience you get at Nelum Pokuna as a spectator, actor or even a dramatist is completely different. Undoubtedly Nelum Pokuna would be the place for high quality, standard theatre productions and certainly it is not a waste to spend on a ticket which is a little bit expensive, for a high quality theatre experience,” he said.

“The ease of access and the other facilities in the area ensures that foreign, local producers and artistes are given the prime opportunity to promote their work financially and artistically.

Therefore, we invite theatre lovers to come and feel the difference and high quality theatre experience. Though ‘Maname’ and ‘Sinha Bahu’ is your most familiar and affectionate dramas which are very close to your heart, I’m quite sure that you will experience different high quality standard ‘Maname’ and ‘Sinha Bahu’ which would be a life time experience,” he further added.



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