Reading takes me to another world – Delon Weerasinghe | Sunday Observer

Reading takes me to another world – Delon Weerasinghe

27 September, 2020

Delon Weerasinghe is a television and film fixer, playwright and a bookworm. From his production house, The Dreamforge, he has been producing documentaries, reality TV shows, digital films, drama series, talk shows, commercials, news features, live shows, etc. for the past fifteen years.

He has produced over 70 TV productions for many international broadcasters such as Discovery Channel, BBC, National Geographic, NBC etc. ‘Thicker than blood’ his drama script book won the Gratiaen award in 2005.

Youth Observer spoke to Delon Weerasinghe to discuss his favourite book, his reading habits and share his views on today’s readership in society.


Q: If you had to pick one book that appealed to you the most, what would it be?

A: I mostly tend to read plays as I am a playwright and enjoy reading plays a lot. Of these plays, I would like to pick a play called ‘Far Away’ written by Caryl Churchill, a British playwright who is considered to be one of the ten best English playwrights.

Q: Why do you like it?

A: Churchill always challenges the accepted structure of drama. It is very interesting the way she approaches a drama. She takes away characters of this play. The play starts out with characters, but by the end of it everything is character. The wind is a character, the setting is a character, and so on.

In her other drama, ‘Blue Kettle’ she takes away the idea that language is important for drama. ‘Blue Kettle’ starts with a normal dialogue, but by the end of it the only two words used in the drama are ‘blue’ and ‘kettle’, all the other words had gone away. There she challenges the idea that language is one of the most important elements of a play. In literature we say the most important element is language or words, but Churchill continues the story, even when she takes away the words of a language.

This is a very revolutionary context. While bringing all this experiments she also has a some strong political message too. For example in ‘Far Away’ she talks about the holocaust, ethnic cleansing, women’s issues, etc. And she is one of the playwrights who always find the very original which is a very rare in arts.

Q: How did you read ‘Far Away’?

A: I worked with Royal Court Theatre in London in 2001. ‘Far Away’ was first produced at the Royal Court Theatre in November/December 2000. During this time we were glad to learn play writing. We were living in the theatre and every day we went to the theatre, watched plays and discussed with directors and actors. They and other playwrights would also lecture us when we were resident dramatists there. So, when I come back from London, one of the first things I did was to buy books, mainly drama books. This book is one of the books I brought in London.

Q:  Have you met Caryl Churchill personally?

A: No. We wanted to meet her, but she is a very reclusive person. She never meets people and does not discuss her plays with anybody. And she never goes out, does not go for festivals nor gives interviews to the media. From 1974 to 1975 she served at the Royal Court as a resident dramatist, but didn’t talk to anyone about her plays. Churchill is now 83. I hope to meet her when I go to London next time.

Q:  Haven’t you tried to produce this drama?

A: This drama was produced in Sri Lanka, may be around 2005 by the British Council and the director was William Scot Richards, a British director. He had directed it in London and worked with Caryl Churchill closely. I acted in that drama.

Q:  In Sri Lanka, people are used to reading fiction, not reading play scripts?

A: Yes, we are not used to experience a play as a text unless we learn it in school. And the texts mostly we learn at schools are also very old ones such as Shakespeare and Greek tragedies.

People don’t realize that the modern theatre is also literary. Unlike the old plays, these modern plays deal with contemporary subjects.

I think if people begin to read plays, sure they would love to play, because it’s very immediate, their dialogues are short and interesting. You can sit down and read it in an hour or hour and a half. To me, they are very powerful and easy to understand most of the time. The modern play is extremely powerful and in terms of how they communicate ideas, they are a lot stronger than other books.

Q:  Could you tell us about your reading habits?

A: When I was at school I was an avid reader. My school was St. Thomas’ College Mt. Lavinia. For me, reading is a way to enter a different world. However, I am actually a little bit deflective. Although I loved to read I find it difficult to read now. These days I tend to download books from the web and go through them.

Q:  What do you think of the present readership in society?

A: People like to read, it has never decreased, but how they read has changed a lot. They tend to read ebooks, social media, web items and audio books, though some people read hardcopies. I think people still read more than we used to read. The problem is what they are reading, because most people are on social media now. Actually literature reading is quite positive and brings a lot of positive things to life. But mostly we are not into literature reading, but into social media. It is unfortunate that most people are wasting eight – nine hours per day on social media.

Q: Do you read Sinhala books?

A: I don’t read many Sinhala books, because my comfortable language is English. I studied in Sinhala, but in terms of literature I tend to read more English books.

One reason for it is my home environment. My mom is a Burgher and we spoke mostly in English at home. So, English was more like my first language.

Q:  What is your advice to aspiring readers and writers?

A: For aspiring readers, I would say please read, but read something literary, because social media reading does not uplift you any way.

Reading gives you a different experience, a different perspective that you never get from any other way. When you read a book, you have to create images yourself, so it engages all parts of the mind and emotion.

For aspiring writers, I would say that writing is a way of expressing something. Today people have a lot of opinions about politics and world matters, but most of the time they get on FB and fight with someone.

They wouldn’t communicate with the society in a good way. In every play there is a protagonist and antagonist, one side and the other side. You can’t only have one side. You have lots of arts of communicating. Writing is a way of doing that. So, I would say for aspiring writers to use your creative talents to communicate in a good way.