Columnists,Main Slider l by Hi!! Online l 24 Mar 2021     - 48

English Theatre returns to the Wendt with ‘ART’


The Lionel Wendt Theatre draws its curtains after an entire year in the wings with Asoka Handagama’s Sinhala play ‘Death in an Antique Shop’. As if this high-profile director’s opening was not enough, Colombo theatregoers will be treated to the return of yet another high-profile director to the LWT boards after a lapse of not just years, but decades.

Not only is English theatre making a comeback after the lapse of a Covid riddled year, but Broken Leg Theatre’s tenth anniversary production also heralds the long-awaited re-entry of Steve De La Zilwa to Colombo, after his triumphant ‘Equus’ in 2007.

Yasmina Reza’s ‘Art’ is a Tony and Olivier award winning play for which she won high praise when it debuted in her native Paris. Following the enormous success of the play, it has since been translated into thirty languages with Christopher Hampton taking credit for the excellent English version. Reza is rumoured to have been slightly troubled by the ease with which the play was slotted into the comedy genre, given the eventually fraught relationships of the play’s protagonists. However, the travails of the three friends are described in Reza’s characteristic wit and incisiveness resulting in a hilarious unraveling and potential rekindling of friendships.

The play revolves around three male friends, Marc, Ian and Shehan (the play has been slightly altered to suit local audiences). Shehan buys a ‘white’ painting. Marc hates it. Ian isn’t sure. The polarization that ensues is an excellent introspection into the ‘with us or against us’ attitude that exists in many of today’s disagreements. The conversation which begins in a critique of the painting expands into witty repartee that establishes the insecurities and foibles of the characters, of themselves and also in their interactions with each other. It is unlikely that any audience member will leave the theatre without resonating with one or more of the characters.

De La Zilwa’s visual brilliance and interpretation coupled with Reza’s script in the hands of Shanaka Amarasinghe, Chamat Arambewela and Lihan Mendis will add lustre to the re-opening of the Wendt. The last play that Steve De La Zilwa directed played to standing ovations every one of its seven nights nearly 14 years. This one – his first comedy in decades – will be much anticipated.

The Broken Leg Theatre Company began its journey in 2011 at the tiny British Council auditorium and have finally graduated to the Wendt for their fourth production and tenth anniversary. Jehan Mendis and  Adam Smyth who played in the debut production have since migrated, and are ably replaced by Chamat Arambewela and Lihan Mendis who join Shanaka Amarasinghe to complete the three person cast. No doubt De La Zilwa’s direction will greatly enhance the play and production for its tenth anniversary showing.

Produced by Lihan Mendis and lighting design by Ryan Holsinger, the Broken Leg Theatre Company’s tenth anniversary production, ‘Art’ by Yasmina Reza will be staged on the 25th, 26th and 27th of March 2021 at 8pm at the Lionel Wendt Theatre with two matinees at 5pm on Friday and Saturday.

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