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The latest drama production by Kaushalya Fernando, Dutu Thena Allanu (Wanted) is on board again on June 5 at Lionel Wendt Theatre at 3.30 and 6.45 pm. The play was premiered on December 12 and 13, 2015 at the same venue and was well received by the audiences.

Dutu Thena Allanu is an adaptation of Opera Wonyosi by Nobel Prize-winning dramatist and poet Wole Soyinka. The play is a satirical representation of a decadent, socio-political scenario. The post civil war military regime in Nigeria and the economic upsurge created by oil extraction that resulted in social, political, and cultural decadence was the backdrop under which Soyinka created Opera Wonyosi. His script is an Africanization of Bertolt Brecht’s Three Penny Opera and John Gay’s 18th Century ballad opera, The Beggar’s Opera, which also influenced Brecht’s work.

Adapted from both these texts in 1977, Soyinka staged a powerful satire that explored the corrupt socio-political conditions prevailing in contemporary Nigeria. Murderous mayhem, institutionalized crimes such as assault and torture of prisoners, murders committed in broad daylight, mass scale concerts and funfair that devour resources, a culture of impunity, bribe and ransom taking, the madness of hording valuables, public places tainted with blood, streets congested by commotions and fights is the socio-political hell that was Nigeria, at that time.

Wole Soyinka’s theatrical attempt was to awaken his fellow citizens who were in a stupor, letting themselves be abused and taken advantage of. The opera made them initially laugh at the abused victims within it, leading to the realization of their own sad plight. Kaushalya Fernando presents to us, a reproduction based on Wole Soyinka’s Opera Wonyosi, recreated to suit the Sri Lankan socio-political scenario.

Macheath in Dutu Thena Allanu is a notorious professional bandit who has established himself as a significant entity. Anikura is a businessman who has started a beggars’ society and has succeeded in mastering the business of begging. He has a crafty knowledge of how to win the sympathy of people and is the proprietor of a business school for beggars. The higher ups in the Police and the Judiciary, as well as Emperor Boky (Bokassa), the eccentric leader allow for this racketeering business to thrive as they cannot safeguard their corrupt existence if the criminals are not supported and taken care of.

Even the clergy have become corrupt comedians swaying under these abusive power structures. The citizens who are compelled to look on, are victimized by the thieves, racketeers, and the state. The leaders, higher ups and the powerful reign with supreme power and good fortune. The powerless is without much luck even if they obey the powerful. This is the society that Dutu Thena Allanu creates on stage. This interesting satirical theatre production presented to us using energetic dance and music will fill the local stage with merriment, leading us towards wisdom.

Dutu Thena Allanu is Kaushalya Fernando’s third theatrical production at national level. Earlier she had produced Sanda Langa Maranaya (Garcia Lorca’s Blood Wedding) and Maask (Henrik Ibsen’s The Public Enemy). Kaushalya Fernando who has been a teacher of drama for a long period of time, is, at present, the Creative Director of Somalatha Subasinghe Play House, the Drama School inaugurated by her mother, Somalatha Subasinghe. Kaushalya strongly believes that the theatre experience should be an aesthetically pleasing one for the audience. Therefore, she believes that any complex socio-political experience could be taken to the public by using an engaging presentation style.

Dutu Thena Allanu is presented by Somalatha Subasinghe Play House which is also known as the Lanka Children’s and Youth Theatre Foundation. It was established in 1981 by veteran dramatist Somalatha Subasinghe and has presented numerous children’s and youth theatre productions as well as mainstream theatre for the local audiences. It is the representative organization for the international children’s and youth theatre association, ASSITEJ. It further conducts a series of creative activities for small children.

Music Direction of Dutu Thena Allanu is by Chinthaka Jayakody. Lighting design and Choreography is by Chandana Aluthge. Costumes and stage props is by Thisara Imbulana. The cast includes Dhanushka Dias, Shanaka Fernando, Thilakshini Ratnayake, Mayura Perera, Nilanka Dahanayake, Saviour Kanishka, Yashodha Rasanduni, Poojana Dandeniya, Dilum Buddhika, Kumudu Wickramathanthri, Chamara Gamaethige, Thilina Perera, Gyathri Ekanayake, Thiwanka Don Ranasinghe, Sameera Lakmal Wimalasiri, Duminda Sandaruwan and Hasarinda Kesara Liyanaarachchi. All actors are trained at the Somalatha Subasinghe Play House.

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