By Thilak S. Fernando

Hela Puwatha, the history of Sri Lanka was 're-lived' for the second time in London, on 26 July, at the Commonwealth Institute in Kensington to depict the story of our motherland from the time Vijaya and his followers landed in the Island up to day of Independence on 4 February 1948.

Taking back twenty five centuries and reminding the audience of how Sri Lanka's destiny was reshaped through a line of rulers which included princes, kings, foreign rulers up to the moment it was handed back to Sri Lankans, it touched vividly how Sri Lankan heritage was devastated through foreign rule and projected Sri Lankans' spirited struggle and self determination to regain the lost sovereignty through independence.

The play directed by Ari Dissanayake with the artistic skills of Vipuli was a combined effort of Old Visakians in the UK, admirably a completely different innovative venture, the objective of which was to financially support their alma mater Visakha Vidyalaya in a scholarship project.

Going through change of scenes in any play is not an easy task even with a limited cast. In this respect the amount of dedication, enthusiasm, adventure and the enormous challenge confronted by the long list its caste Hela Puwatha production team has disclosed the fact to what extent Sri Lankan talent is now available in London as much as their growing eagerness for Lankan culture with feelings full of patriotism.

The stage management with creative ideas and background [supporting] singing rather than artistes trying to amplify their own voices blended harmoniously with the scene and story line. The female and male dancers kept the audience engrossed in the play with added light- humour such as a village pregnant woman going in search of foreign cheese to fulfil her 'doladuka'.

London is regarded as a cynosure where visitors come from all over the world to watch rich drama. In such an environment the ability to find and train stage artistes from the Sri Lankan community in London and to stage a drama depicting the history Sri Lanka needs enormous drive and courage ; old Visakians in this respect need to be proud of their achievement in their production and especially having to repeat the show for the second time by popular request.

Every one who took part in the play was a volunteer with no professional grooming on stage acting, yet their performance has shown the colossal talent in them and the potential which the PPA production team need taking note of. Naturally in a new adventure, one cannot expect every thing to go in ship shape and bristol fashion and areas that could have been improved were the projection of voices by important characters such as Viharama Devi, King Dutugamunu , a few Nilames and a few other characters. Rather than a female having to prompt the audience the synopsis from period to period, perhaps it would have had a better impact if a traiditional ' pothe` gura' were to perform that function.

From the audience point of view there is only one constructive criticism which needs highlighting. As in the case of any Sri Lankan show in London, it is the weakness, inconsiderate attitude of some or is it just being in their helpless state that some parents bring very young children to public shows to disturb others who have paid good money and come to enjoy a performance peacefully. When such children and infants scream and yell much to the annoyance of the viewer parents have to carry the crying and yelling babies out of the hall altogether making a nuisance unto themselves ! During Hela Puwatha it is not an exaggeration to state that the writer had to put up with two shows simultaneously - one on stage and the other right in front of him where a little girl was yapping, shouting and playing on chairs merrily while her father was lost in our heritage !