Theatre of the Absurd | Sunday Observer

Theatre of the Absurd

Or is it Greek tragedy of attempted suicide, weeping females and fasting unto death for a noble cause, or so they believe? When we thought that the comedies enacted in Parliament were reduced and we could get back to normal living, there appeared a pseudo tragedy which is undoubtedly Theater of the Absurd though enacted and promoted by the chief protagonist and the chorus as a soul searing tragic drama.

A drama of many scenes

Menika had better stop talking in riddles. What she refers to is the fast unto death of MP Wimal Weerawansa. One thing, this great actor never pauses in his histrionics; he’ll grab centre stage and have newspapers reporting on his every move, so also the electronic media. They wait like crows for carrion news - the more rotten, the better. We were given details in both, print media and electronic, of a birthday party - Happy day oh happy day! There was the man being sung to and like a child blowing out candles and cutting a cake. Menika has commented earlier on the bites offered from a piece of cake – to wife, daughter, ex Big Boss and others. Then the shouting and wagging of a threatening index finger at the Speaker, and of course loud diatribes.

The scene shifts to the law courts. The chief actor is there in his pristine white kapati suit though emerging from remand jail. Supporting female actors of wife and daughter are there at the premises of the court house, so also members of the chorus: members of the Joint Op. Some vital action occurs off stage as it happens in classical Greek tragic theatre. A judge refuses bail. A smiling protagonist departs in the black Maria followed by the rabble, his supporters.

The next build up scene is enacted in prison. A fast unto death is proclaimed by the protagonist and publicly and loudly announced by the Chorus. He lays himself down. Now what the audience was meant to believe, and we did just that, was that the fast unto death was in protest of not being given bail. This interpretation was not Menika’s alone. Sure the entire audience believed this; the audience being newspaper reading and TV watching people. But, as the drama unfolded further, the motive for the fast was changed to one in protest of the government’s witch hunt of JO members. A Thursday 30 March newspaper says that Dinesh Gunawardena addressing the press stressed that Weerawansa’s fast in remand prison was aimed at highlighting political interference in his case. He had been remanded for alleged misuse of vehicles. Now there is a real case of contempt of court; questioning the integrity of law courts.

We had to watch a side scene through a car window. There sat two females with a young girl wedged in between. The girl, poor thing, starts weeping since it’s her Thathi that has embarked on another fast unto death. The young should not be filmed or in other ways embroiled publicly in tragedy or for that matter comedy. They are embroiled if it’s a parent centre stage, but media should not invade a child’s privacy, unless of course the mother decided to obtain some mileage from the child’s tears. Unforgivable, but possible in this land of ours. Manipulate even children.

A climatic scene was enacted on Wednesday. The chief protagonist who was removed from his remand cell to the prison hospital is now ambulanced to the General Hospital. Oh, what a crowd there was! At the entrance to the ward which was to receive the poor darling of a seven day fasted man, the mob was so heavy and unruly that the ambulance door could not be opened. Were his admiring followers, whether of the NFF or JO or hired thugs, oblivious to the fact they were delaying his admittance for treatment? Who knew whether he was so severe in his fast that he was at death’s door and needed immediate transfusion if not forced feeding.

One truth in a web of shoddy intrigue

In any tragedy and more so in Shakespeare’s great plays like Macbeth and others, a scene of lighthearted humour is introduced to defuse the tension. This play being now enacted with the public of Sri Lanka the audience, and the JO the Greek (or Sarathchandra’s) chorus, a scene was enacted in another part of the stage as is traditional. On the top of a flight of steps was Minister John Amaratunge being questioned by the media. Menika report the scene, not verbatim but close enough:

Media: What will be done now?

JA: He will be force fed.

Media: But if he refuses food?

JA: He can continue his fast on water.

Media: If he is dying?

JA: We will let him.

Media: But what if he dies?

JA: (Most casually with not a trace of remorse) We will get Raymonds, at government expense, and do what is necessary.

Did Menika hear cheering from the audience, us the people?

We cannot give into every Banda, Jamis and Wimal holding the government and country to ransom.

If the protagonist (see I never called him hero though he is centre stage in this tragi-comedy) is guilty of cheating the government, meaning us the public, with misuse of vehicles which is being probed, he must be punished and suffer the consequences of gross corruption which was obvious the way he lived sumptuously.

If the Prez and Prime Minister buckle down to appeals/threats of the JO, we lose faith in them and will vote them out next time elections come round. We feel certain Ranil W will stand firm and abide by the law.

The Prez may let his kind heart or more likely eye on loyal votes sway him. We, the audience, will watch and cheer who deserves being applauded in this drama of Absurd Theatre.

- Menika