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Revival of 'Nattukkari':

A masterly crafted Sinhala comedy

Director of the play
Namel Weeramuni

'Nattukkari', the Sinhalese production of Jean Anouilh's 'Colombe' directed by Namel Weeramuni, will go on the boards at The Punchi Theatre in Borella on August 13, 14 and 16 at 6.30 p.m.

A scene from the play

The revival of Nattukkari by veteran playwright Namel Weeramuni comes at a time when contemporary Sinhala theatre faces a crisis of faith both in the production of original plays of significant value and in the artistic quality of the productions in general. Namel Weeramuni translated the play from Jean Anouilh's original text of the play 'Mademoiselle Colombe' produced in 1951. One of the significant aspects of the Sinhala translation of the play is that its uncompromising loyalty to the original text and the use of colloquial idiom in Sinhala so as to make it a play of significant value in Sinhala. Namel Weeramuni, though known as a successful counsel in the UK, he is also a translator whose works such as translation of Prof. Ediriweera Sarachchandra's "Sinhabahu" - English Version and a pre-production Image (English Text and Critical Analysis of the Play) is considered as one of the best English translations of the play.

The first production of the play was held on February 5, 6 and 10 of 1970 at the Lumbini Theatre, Colombo. For the first production the cast included Somalatha Subasinghe as Madam Alexandra, Upali Attanayake as Julien, Damma Jagoda, Namel Weeramuni, Wickrema Bogoda and Prema Ganegoda. Subsequently, the play was produced in London on October 2, 1976 at the Commonwealth Centre's theatre and also at Bernard Show theatre in the West End. The first production of the play was by Apey Kattiya and the music for the play was by maestro Premasiri Khemadasa.

The cast for the latest production is made up of Sahan Ranwala as Julien, Surangi Kosala as Colombe, Malini Weeramuni as Madam Alexandra , Ruwan Wickremasinghe as Paul, Deepani de Silva as Joergi, Vishaka Jayaweera and Anusha Dissanayake, Daya Thennakoon as Surrette, Senet Dikkumbura as Robinet, Anil Wickremasinghe as Lardgete and Senaviratne as Defonatte. The music is by Jayatissa Alahakoon.

The play is set against the backdrop of the 19th century Paris. The action takes place in fin-de-sicle Parisian theatre where Madame Alexandra, a celebrated seven-times-married rival to Sarah Bernardt dominates the theatre.

At the first production at the Lumbini Theatre, Colombo

A would-be musician Julien turns up at the theatre where his mother the famous actress and Grande dame Madame Alexandra is playing. Mother and son maintain a rather estranged relationship largely due to their diverse philosophies of life. Though largely grown up and lived in theatre, Julien loathes the theatre as well as his seven-times-married mother who has a penchant for recalling her numerous love affairs. The son detests mother's way of life and accounts of her sexual exploits.

However, Julien has been called up for military service compelling him to seek his estranged mother's help to look after his wife Colombe and son. So he leaves Colombe and son with his mother who takes her daughter-in-law and makes her an accomplished actor. Eventually Colombe learns to love theatre and discovers pleasures of the stage and life.

The play invokes a fascinating facet of the 19th century theatre and amorous dressing-room liaisons where eventually Colombe has to choose between the fake red velvet world of ovation and adoration and the reality of a rather dull marriage.

Jean Marie Lucien Pierre Anouilh was a French dramatist. His characters offer a dichotomy between idealism and realism. This is also present in 'Colombe.' It is a perpetual battle between idealism and realism against a society that is hostile to purity. According to the director of the play, the present production of 'Nattukkari' will use costumes resembling authentic 19th century ambience.

 

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