Revival of 'Nattukkari':
A masterly crafted Sinhala comedy
Director of the play
'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.