Weaving aVision of Unseen plights | Sunday Observer

Weaving aVision of Unseen plights

4 November, 2018

‘Nudutu Aes’, which carries its English title as ‘Unseen Eyes’ is a stage play directed by Kanchuka Dharmasiri, scripted as a text combining a selection of poems of Bertolt Brecht and Kumari Kumaragamage. A work of theatre collaboratively realised by students and Faculty members of the University of Peradeniya, members of the Melting Clock Theatre Company as well as artists based in Kandy, ‘Unseen Eyes’ is of a mixed media genre which offers the audience a cinematic facet to the performance through audiovisual material screened on stage. The work itself is to a great extent a performance that shows a texture of abstract theatre given the diverse elements that were woven together to unfold a nonconventional stage play.

The mould and motif of the ‘dialogue’ was more in the manner of monologist utterances that were dramatically delivered by the artistes who collectively functioned more through symbolism than conventional character portrayal. Understandably, the fact that the script of this play is a text made up of poems and excerpts of poems, makes the verbal element of the performance more in the nature of poetry being performed through the art of theatre.

The theme and ‘scenario’ was on the plight of victims of war. The focus was on the fears and emotions of the civilians whose lives were irreversibly devastated after they were displaced in the last phases of the crushing of the LTTE separatist war that raged in the North of Sri Lanka.

While this was patently an antiwar play, I cannot help but ask if the crux of the argument is meant to see the reasons for the devastation to the lives of civilians that were caused as one sided? While war is certainly an abominable human reality the fact remains that the separatist war in the North was perpetuated through the use of terrorist modes against Sri Lankan civilians of all communities.

From my observations ‘Unseen Eyes’ could be made to offer a more balanced impression of the blame that is cast upon the causers of the misery faced by the war displaced. Be that as it may, there is no denying that expedient remedial measures are urgently needed to mend as best as possible the lives of the displaced war victims and in that respect this play brings out a strong message to the State to be more duty conscious of its responsibilities towards realising proactive measures to restore lives shattered by the war.

The action on stage was a more symbolic expression than the portrayal of a scene from a drama of the realist genre.

One of the striking scenes was the one that showed the artistes marching like soldiers trooping in, observing a disciplined and orderly manner but as soon as they entered a certain space of the stage, symbolically meant to be the ‘war zone’ one may assume, they transform their actions to mimic a predatory animal on the prowl, in the likeness of a lion, or just as well, a tiger.

Anyone familiar with the symbolism those two big cats hold in the context of identifying the Sri Lankan military and the LTTE can understand that one can read that scene not as exclusively ascribed to symbolise the Sri Lankan military but could symbolise either or both factions that were at war with one another in the North, since the LTTE was a highly disciplined militia, the image of soldiers trooping in line can symbolise the uniformed LTTE cadres just as much as government troops.

The transformation of a marching solider to a prowling predator was meant largely to show that war makes animals out of men. The psychology of war evokes a predacious animality in men who enter a battlefield, appeared to be the statement at the crux of that act.

There is quite a notable emphasis in ‘Unseen Eyes’ on how war as a form of human action composed of subjects and objects, is looked upon as a living memory which gains amplification with time, when wounds have not been tended to.

‘Unseen Eyes’ is an avant-garde work of theatre bound to symbolism where elements of sound, space, silence and the motion of human bodies as both singular entities and collectivised bodies, are looked at in the context of human suffering caused by war.

A work with a markedly left wing outlook, this work looks upon war in general as a self serving project of those in power that dehumanises the common man victimised in power struggles authored by (the) unseen arbiters of both, wars and its subsequent forms of peace.