From The Sunday Times 29 September 2013
by Shaveen Jeewandara
A round with the winners | A first for Visakha Vidyalaya
For Visakha Vidyalaya, winning the Shakespeare Drama Competition this year was more than just taking the silverware home; it was about taking it home for the first time in the competition’s 40 year history. Twenty-eight days of practise and a troupe that started out with only five students grew into a confident cast.
“A month ago, we were struggling with just five actors and even contemplated not participating,” says Zeithun Hakeem, President of the Drama and Debating Society. “Fortunately we managed to rally 22 students within a day, hectic practises followed and everyone pitched in to create history.”
Zeithun led from the front and bagged the coveted award for the Best Actress playing the role of Rosalind. In keeping with the script, she had to switch from the male pretence of Ganymede to the beautiful Rosalind who stopped time in its tracks with her recital of the epilogue.
In preparation for the final scene, she had to change outfits from Ganymede to Rosalind in a matter of seconds. “It was a mad rush backstage, and credit goes to Hasini Jayawardena for heading the backstage crew.” Playing Orlando the exiled Duke, Nilushi Dewapura grabbed the opportunity to morph herself into a sanguine actress with a strong performance on the night.
“I gained a lot of exposure and the family-like cast kept me comfortable with my role.” Amaya Fernando playing the proud and enamoured Phoebe egged the crowd into laughter more than once. We asked if her character had a natural inclination and the entire cast bellows out “Oh, it’s natural!” She tells us that playing the tenacious role was much easier once she started bugging poor Sylvius (Yalindee) off stage. “I was annoying her at practices and even after.
This probably helped the chemistry and I really got my Phoebe-mode on.” Being Yalindee’s first time on stage, it meant that she was a bit nervous about playing the comic role of a naive shepherd – but the young actress cast aside her demons, and brought out Sylvius’ frustration to the fore in a brilliant performance.
Playing the role of Celia, Nisali Jayatilake -the cast leader- admits she had to come out of her comfort zone and shed nuances in her acting that were closer to home. “There’s something very Sri Lankan about my acting, so it was challenging to take on a traditional Shakespearean role,” she says.
Nisali however, brought out her best on the day with a skilled interpretation of Celia. One aspect they resound in unison is the impact that their young director Chalana Wijesuriya (Best Actor recipient at last year’s competition) had on the play. “He brought out the best in each and every one of us and we owe him a big part of this victory,” Zeithun says. “Give them a piece of heaven was what he always told us,” laughs Sachindri Wickramasinghe, who played Hymen.
Being one of the three seniors in the troupe, along with Zeithun and Nisali, she says that they were determined to push the youngsters towards victory and were happy to be a part of the cast.
Judges of the Inter-School Shakespeare Drama Competition
- Dinali Fernando -Senior lecturer at the Department of English, University of Kelaniya
- Delon Weerasinghe – Filmmaker
- Neluka Silva – Professor of English, University of Colombo and Head of the English Department
- Winner-Visakha Vidyalaya (As You Like It)
- 1st runners up-Bishops College (Merchant of Venice)
- 2nd runners up-Good Shepherd’s Convent, Kotahena (Merchant of Venice)
- 3rd runners up-Girls High School Kandy (Othello)
- Best Actress-Zeithun Hakeem (Visakha Vidyalaya)
- Best Supporting Actress-Thashika Wijesekara (Girls High School Kandy)
The judges were “delighted with the four excerpts” and were impressed with the overall concepts, imaginativeness and the teamwork. They were of the view that : “All the casts worked well together as a team and there was Shakespearean exuberance in the performances. One thing to note is that the use of effects like music and dance should be taken in the context of the entire play. Shakespeare himself conveyed emotions through his lines and that would have sufficed.”
From Times Online 23rd September 2013
Drawing the curtains on the Interschool Shakespeare Competition 2013 organized by the YMCA and the Rotary Club of Colombo North, the Girls Finals was held yesterday at the Bishops College Auditorium. Battling it out at the finals, Bishop's College Colombo, Girls High School Kandy, Good Shepherd's Convent Kotahena and VIsakha Vidyalaya put on the show of their lives for the coveted championship.
That was the Bard's night!
It was a night highly anticipated by all parties involved; the casts, the crews, the teachers- in- charge, the parents, the veterans and theatre- lovers all convened in the hallowed hall for a night of the bard. The Annual Interschool Shakespeare Drama Competition (girls) 2013 organized by the YMCA and Rotaract Club of Colombo was held at Bishops' College auditorium on 20th September 2013.
First up was Bishops' College with an innovative interpretation of 'Merchant of Venice.' The theme of Jewish persecution was highlighted by cleverly incorporating a Nazi setting. The courtroom scene performed was with great enthusiasm by the cast who was decked out as SS soldiers in Nazi Germany, complete with swastika armbands.
The inherent racism of the original script was brought to the forefront in the repartee between Portia and Shylock (in court) which was acted out with careful attention to the myriad nuances of racism and discrimination. Shylock's ending soliloquy was the highlight of the performance, engaging the sympathy of the audience. Next was last years' champions, Girls' Highschool Kandy with 'Othello' interestingly adapted to a Colonial Sri Lankan setting, with Othello being the othered 'rate mahattaya' and the rest of the cast the Westernized locals. Iago's performance as the debonair and manipulative snake- in- the grass was unparalleled while the jealousy and passion of Othello was spot on.
They were supported by an impeccable cast that featured several familiar as well as new faces. The clever use of props, the low comedy, the stage effects and well- delivered lines made it one of the most gripping and memorable performances of the night.
Iago and Othello in Girls’ Highschool Kandy’s ‘Othello’
Rosalind/ Ganymede with Orlando in ‘As You Like It’ by Visakha Vidyalaya
Good Shepherd Convent, Kotahena, also tackled 'The Merchant of Venice' but with a modern take. The drama opened with a vivid dance sequence of the dramatis personae which set the tone for the rest of the play. Unfortunately the strength of the performance was lost in the crucial conversation between Shylock, Antonio and Bassanio as it was carried on over mobile phones; the lack of human interaction gave the dialogue a blandness that stripped it of the drama in the scene. However, Shylock more than made up for it in the following scenes with a noteworthy performance of a parent whose instincts veer between love for his child and his inherent greed. His performance was solidly supported by the rest of the cast but failed to convey the subtleties that had been present in the previous presentation of the play.
Finally, Visakha Vidyalaya amazed audience and judges alike with an energetic and humorous rending of 'As You Like It.' The only comedy to make the finals, the cast proved their worth with strong acting and well- rehearsed dialogue, as well as immaculate period costumes.
The stage setting of the Forest of Arden was equally impressive, with much attention to detail. Orlando was firmly portrayed but the star of the play was undoubtedly Rosalind, whose antics as Ganymede kept the audience in stitches throughout. Her deadpan deliverance of lines combined with the energetic Phebe added a much- needed dose of laughter to the evening.
Then it was time for the deliberation of the judges.
Judges for this year included Professor Neluka Silva of the English Department of University of Colombo; Delon Weerasinghe, well- known film- maker, playwright and director; Senior Lecturer Dinali Fernando, of the English Department of the University of Kelaniya.
After a nerve- wracking half- hour, the judges ascended the stage to comment on the performances, opining that while the necessary Shakespearean exuberance was present, the effects could have been better thought out to support the plays rather than to simply make them spectacular.
The awards were presented by officials from Colombo YMCA and the Rotaract club with Alagan Kadirgamar, a veteran thespian and former General Secretary of YMCA, as the special guest. The Challenge Cup for Best Stagecraft was won by Devi Balika Vidyalaya who performed 'Othello' at the Semi- Finals while Best Novice School was won by Gateway College Negombo who tackled the comedy 'As You Like It.'
To no one's surprise, the Challenge Shield for Best Supporting Actress was won by Dakshika Wijesekara of Girls' Highschool Kandy and the Challenge Shield for Best Leading Actress was won by Zaitun Hakeem of Visakha Vidyalaya.
In a move that shocked and surprised many in the audience however, Girls' Highschool Kandy was declared 3rd runner up with Good Shepherd Convent and Bishops' College coming in 2nd and 1st runner up respectively. After an absence of a couple of years from the finals, Visakha Vidyalaya emerged the well- deserved Champions of the 2013 Inter- School Shakespeare Competitions. The Night of the Bard ended with cheers and laughter as well as tears and sighs that signalled the end of yet another Shakespeare year and the promise of more for the future.