Royalists take on the challenge of Jekyll and Hyde
Taking on a challenging dramatic venture, young Royalists
will present an adapted version of R.L. Stevenson's classic, 'Dr.
Jekyll & Mr. Hyde' from January 31 to February 2 at 7 p.m.,
at the Lionel Wendt Theatre.
The play is
being staged by the Royal College Union (RCU) together with the
Old Royalists Association of Dramatists (ORAD) and The Royal College
English Drama Society (EGBA).
cast all students, aged 13 to 20, are a talented bunch. Winners
of last year's Inter-School Shakespeare Drama Competition for 'Anthony
and Cleopatra' and runners-up the previous year (2001), they are
brimming with enthusiasm.
Hettihamu, an old boy of RC believes in giving back whatever he
can to his alma mater.
both the runners-up and winning cast of 2001 and 2002 at the Shakespeare
Drama Competition and was also Production Manager for 'Arsenic and
Old Lace' and 'Jungle Book', two earlier productions.
he was co-writer of the play 'Fill in the Blanks' and was part of
the 'Stages' theatre group that performed at the 'Commonwealth Drama
Festival' held in Manchester last year.
The story of
'Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde' begins in London in the 1900s, when
Dr. Henry Jekyll, attempts to prove wrong a common belief that there's
no scientific basis behind human morality.
though, his experiment goes way beyond his expectations and control,
manifesting his alter-ego... Mr. Edward Hyde.
The main story
whilst revolving around Dr. Jekyll and his split personality, also
focuses on society at that time.
twist occurs when the doctor and his late fiancée's sister
Sarah Crawford are discovered by a 'snoopy' reporter in Dr. Jekyll's
study one night.
This dark tale
of mystery and horror is guaranteed to provide the audience with
an action packed evening, full of special effects and daredevil
The box office
will be open from January 21 at the Lionel Wendt Theatre. Media
sponsors for the event are MTV, Yes FM and The Sunday Times.
The play is
co-sponsored by the Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation.
lifetime of dance
For many years, ever since Chitrasena and Vajira moved
from their famed Colpetty studio 'the school near the sea', they
have longed for a permanent place. A place where they could once
again nurture the dance they have dedicated their lives to.
But many long
years have passed and though President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga
granted them a block of land in Narahenpita, Colombo 5, there has
been no encouraging response from any quarter to their quest to
raise enough funds to make the school a reality.
This year though,
as Chitrasena's 82nd birthday on January 26 drew near, the family
decided to go ahead. The foundation stone has been laid, even as
an exhibition celebrating the work of the country's most famous
dancer opens to the public.
the exhibition seeing the monumental scale of their international
success will no doubt, marvel and perhaps conclude that if ever
anyone was worthy of support, they are, for their remarkable contribution
to Sri Lankan dance. But will the dance school be a reality in Chitrasena's
lifetime? He certainly would like it so. For though the years have
slowed his steps and his once vigorous frame is somewhat stooped,
his mind is still alert. "It isn't too late, " he says.
Even now, he feels he can still contribute in passing on some of
the skills that made him a legend in the history of dance in this
he still makes the trip from his tranquil retreat at Mahara to the
GFS hall in Green Path where the Chitrasena Kalayathanaya hold their
weekly classes. "I am there from 8 a.m. to 12 noon," he
says, watching hawk-eyed as youngsters tread the boards before him.
is hard to break for the man who schooled many dancers, the peerless
Vajira, his wife and prima ballerina among them. As a young boy
he had insisted that he be allowed to dance despite opposition from
his family. His determination prevailed and he learned, for many
years, the sacred traditions of Kandyan dance from the great masters
such as Kiriganitha Gurunnanse, Muddanawe Appuwa and Lapaya Gurunnanse
had them all brought to our home," he recollects. He was indeed
fortunate, he says that his father Seebert Dias, a thespian of note,
well-known for his Shakespearean roles not only had him tutored
by the finest in the land but also exposed him to the elements of
stagecraft from an early age.
then Maurice Dias, a youngster of just 15 made his stage debut in
1936 in the dance drama Sri Sangabo directed by his father. "The
poster of that show will be on display at the exhibition,"
he says. This was the first time the story-telling technique was
used in dance. He went on to Shanthiniketan and so began his great
bond with India, which he still regards his second home. Those unforgettable
years were in the early '40s, he reflects, when he danced with the
likes of Rabindranath Tagore's grand-daughter Nanditha Kriplani.
Then the limbs were at their most supple, the ability ever increasing.
"I was flying in the air," he chuckles.
the days when he met inspirational, pioneering dancers like Uday
Shankar and Ramgopal. "I learnt a lot from Uday Shankar's theatrecraft,"
he says adding that it is not only the technique that counts but
the ability to use space on stage, choreography, lighting and so
and his own contribution, what he went on to create, is best described
in Chitrasena's own writings. "In order that the traditional
dance survive, it had to be given a new dimension for its perpetuation
and growth and I felt this could only be done in relation to theatre.
This meant the traditional dance had to undergo certain transformation
for the stage.
with Ravana, Vidura, Chandalika, my early ballets were influenced
by Indian dance. Each of these was a challenge for I was aware that
I was ploughing a new field in the annals of the dance in Sri Lanka.
Nala Damayanthi and Karadiya were more mature productions, for with
a growing sense of assurance and sensitivity towards my art, I was
able to test the possibilities and potential of the medium through
the fire of experience....In Nrithanjali I set a precedent in the
art of presenting a programme of traditional and folk dance items
within the space-time limitations of the stage...
Kolama was the fulfilment of a long cherished dream. I had long
awaited this moment to create a ballet inspired solely by the folk
traditions of Sri Lanka, a truly Sinhala ballet representative of
all that is within our rich cultural heritage."
In the late
'50s, '60s, and '70s, the Chitrasena Vajira Dance Company took the
world by storm, touring Australia, Russia, London and Sydney, Czechoslavakia
and Malaysia and so many other countries to huge acclaim. Those
were their glory days as Sri Lanka's cultural ambassadors and the
exhibition highlights many of these triumphs with pictures and reviews
from all over the world. The Critic in Perth in January 1963, wrote
exactly forty years ago, "To the sounds of the multitudinous
and omnipresent tongues of the drums of Kandy, the dancers in their
elaborate traditional costumes with their sinuous rhythmic gestures
and whirling leaps, present a profusion of scenes of colour and
excitement with a perfection of technique that does not fear comparison
with the best in European ballet". Or how a Swiss critic enthused
in St. Gallen Tageszeitung in 1970, "What Chitrasena attempts
is a fascinating synthesis of genuine art and genuine folklore.
I have never seen this done to such perfection. Vajira revealed
the highest technical mastery together with profound religious concentration".
The thrill of performing to foreign audiences is still vivid in
Chitrasena's mind. The dates are well-remembered so too the rigours
of touring...spending three months on the German autobahn
squeezing in 56 performances". And the responsibility of handling
the troupe, keeping them happy even when they were longing for their
rice and curry.
Would he like
to see the memorabilia on permanent display? "I think the Archives
should keep some of these," he replies. Not only mine
but that of other artistes as well, but they are not interested."
Upeka having done her parents proud with her own dancing prowess,
the family tradition is also alive in Chitrasena and Vajira's grand-daughter
Heshma, who has studied theatrecraft and business management in
the U.S. She, Chitrasena believes, has the potential to see their
legacy live on. It will be Upeka and Heshma who will have to knock
on doors to find the money to build up the school, he says, state
patronage for the arts being sadly lacking.
been triumphs and travails both in full measure in his life and
it is now time for a more contemplative existence in contrast to
his very public youth. Meditation which he learnt under the famous
guru Goenka, having attended many of his courses both here and in
India with Vajira, figures large, he says. "Normally the mind
is a thing that jumps all over..meditation helps you to focus. Just
like in dance. Now I take each day as it comes. I don't plan anything.
Old age is a difficult thing, he adds."I don't meet many people
now." But ever possessed by his beloved dance, there is a new
ballet taking shape in his head and there is all the characteristic
fire as he visualizes seeing it on stage soon, with Vajira, Upeka,
her dancers and some of his former pupils. It will be based on the
Vijaya-Kuveni story ... "I must do it this year, there's no
time to postpone things," he says, smiling.