Dracula gets a different look with Kids@Play

By Yashasvi Kannangara

Managing a full time career, a theatre group, two children and a home while writing and publishing novels and short stories is challenging by any standards, but Professor Neluka Silva does it all. Professor in English and head of the Department of English at the University of Colombo, Neluka who graduated from the Universities of Colombo, and the Universities of Leeds and Oxford, is well known for her contribution to English literature and theatre in Sri Lanka.

Neluka Silva

Neluka is also founder-director of Kids@Play, a children’s theatre group. Following the training she received at the Pegasus Youth Theatre at Oxford in 2005 on working with children’s theatre, she was inspired to create a theatre group focused on children and began with a series of informal drama workshops in 2004. “When I started the programme I honestly didn’t believe it would go anywhere. But the whole group kept growing and we all loved what we did.”

Kids @Play is now hard at work on Dracula, their latest production which will go on the boards at the British School auditorium on April 8 and 9. “The group doing ‘Dracula’ is my oldest group who have been with me since the group’s beginnings in 2004. Each year, I have tried to do a production where the plot, ideas and the other elements of the play come from the children. The last play we did was about the economic crash and its effect on our lives and at the end we focused on the way it affected kids. We have done eight productions so far,” Neluka said. The Kids@ Play Theatre Group has three groups -- 12-16 year olds, 8-12 year olds and 6-8 year olds.

‘Dracula’, is an adaptation of the novel ‘Dracula’ by Irish author Bram Stoker. The protagonist of the play is the vampire Count, Dracula. “This is a play done by children so we don’t have any frightening or macabre scenes. It is a family play. The graphic scenes associated generally with Dracula have been left out. It’s a new take and a lot of fun and one of the most entertaining productions we have done,” says Neluka. The drama follows the very basic storyline, but has brought in new characters.

There are the three female apprentices of Dracula, the Butler and the House Keeper, Doris and Block, and even a modern day doctor. “The whole idea behind the play is that love never dies. It focuses on the endearing love Dracula had for Meena. It is not a comedy, but there are a lot of comic elements within the play. You could say it is a multi-faceted sweet love story. The kids were keen on the supernatural, being influenced by Harry Potter, The Vampire Diaries and a lot of surreal things they have seen on TV or read. When you see how much they enjoy doing this play you realize that Dracula has an appeal even today.”

The plot, dialogue, costumes and the music were all devised by the group. The play is full of song and dance. “There is no written script for the play,” Neluka explains. “The kids come up with their own lines and with time remember it by heart.” “Dracula” will be performed at the British School Auditorium on April 8 and 9 at 7.30 p.m. For tickets please call 0777 571595 or 0777 313773.

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