The inter-faculty English drama competition at Peradeniya yesterday only reinstated the gradually growing and alarmingly real lack of ideological grounding of the contemporary undergraduate. Here, we had four dramas of 30 minutes each, and an audience; and the evening was far from being memorable. Perhaps, to be less prejudiced and — indeed — less bias, one may also have to place Pera par with the creative stuff that comes from other universities; and also the “non-English” creative fora. But, that kind of juxtaposition should be for another piece; not this.
For one, the dramas that were staged at the EOE theatre yesterday were hardly politically or socially relevant except, perhaps, the Arts Faculty’s adaptation from Ruwanthi De Chickera’s “The Middle of Silence”. But, that source, too, is a fairly predictable and superficial touch on the issues the play claims to explore — the upper middle class reduction of complex political reality and appropriation of serious issues for a “moment on the stage” . Surely, this adaptation — titled, I think “The Song of the Drowning Woman” — was easily the pick of the plays; but, to the Arts guys I say that we need something more: something more challenging and something that goes beyond a superficial script. The four players were the consolation for the theater-goers money’s worth, as their production alone engaged the senses of the theater; though, on ideological grounds, none were refreshing.
But, then, again, it was quite obvious that the mass of the Peradeniya English Drama viewers were not there with any ideology, but to have an evening’s distraction. For one, some of the audience — and this has become a fucking habit, now — do not know how to watch a play. As the panel of judges, whose views were represented by BC’s Nick Kendell, most politely pointed out, what was being staged was “not a Cricket match, but drama”. Not being, in that sense, “schooled” or “tempered” to appreciate drama the booing, distracting, shouting and the like knew no justice; which, when the line is crossed, is irritating as well as disturbing to the audience. To some of the audience drama is, in any case, the less important feature of it all. More important would be what they would be doing after-party and as to whether their dicks were brought clean. Ideology oozes there. Too.
To me, the lack of a sense of time-place and brain is summed up in the Science and Engineering plays. Science has not given up the “satire mode” they picked up two years ago with “The Black Adder”; but, has taken it back to more medieval times with “Don Quixote”. Now, I am all for satire, but Science has to realize that they are competing in a contest and satire, if contextualized to the local, would enhance their chances tremendously; as they, surely, do not lack ability, dedication and the spirit. As the judges noted, their thing was good “to start the evening off”. So, what? Is it like some kind of appetizer? Well, unfortunately, with the kind of “non-serious” thing the Science guys seem to prefer their mileage is greatly de-enhanced.
Engineering Faculty, I felt, was more ambitious — their production alone could challenge the Arts Faculty’s “Drowning Woman”; but, miscued. The supernatural twist to the story was quite unpredictable till we were almost 3/4 done, but the plot, to me, failed to hold. Besides, the monotonous “flashbacks”, too, were too frequent and too many. I felt that the stage-time given to them was not altogether sufficient to build up the “past” relations of Aravinda and Samadhi — cos, they were compelled to construct that “past” and at the same time to”stimulate” sympathy out of the audience through a mere two or three “flashback” scenes: which were, 1) how Aravinda and Samadhi met, 2) how they married, 3) how Aravinda cheated and 4) how Samadhi died.
Noteworthy was the Engineering Faculty’s attempt at “code-mixing”, which, to me, didn’t come out too convincingly. It rarely does, anyway.
The Arts Faculty had a second play by its first year students which was an amalgam of Shakespeare-Bronte-Euripides and the like. This failed to take off, partly because the majority of the noisy and boisterous part of the audience were not read in any of these work and could not relate to the text at all. Their response was more to the thighs and the frivolity displyed on stage; which, as was hinted earlier, is where their wisdom ends and delight begins. The play also imparted a certain lethargy and a kind of fragmentation in the plot — mainly because the whole thing ran as a set of monologues / dialogues set in side by more conversation and more dialogue by the “witches”. The action, if at all, was more “intellectual”; and did not, therefore, fit the bill of things. Besides, the texts incorporated in their production showed a certain amateurish quality; for these predictable school-text texts projected without a veil the limitations of their reading — making the whole exercise a school-girl affair.
“Drowning Woman” didn’t have to do much to win. It was a clear victoria. The two leads were solid and the supports were complementary. It transported the audience to a different layer of life, though it be in the De Chickera mode, still, it was a solid movement.
The whole DRAMSOC thing will not learn. I mean, screw ideology. Screw the political. Afterall, we all die and rot in Hell. But, just because there is talent lying there idle…. Just because there is that eternal, illusive glimmer….. Just because of that.