The Best of the Bard!

Natashiya Chamba & Dinidu De Alwis

2008-10-02 20:07:51

It's where the crème de la crème is picked.

Where the works of the great playwright come alive again and again…Shakespeare Drama Competition, fondly known as 'Shakes'.

Pix by: Dinidu De Alwis

Organized by the Rotary Club of Colombo North and the Young Men's Christian Association, this years competitions are now complete. This is a retrospective view and analysis of how this years Shakes shook the house.

Preliminaries were held, and Ave Maria Negombo, Holy Cross Gampaha, St. Bridget's Convent and Visakha Vidyalaya came through to the finals. The process of selection was not the usual who do we pick, but more of who do we knock out, due to only five girls schools competing this year. The finals saw the wisdom and experience of Nirmalee Hettiaracchi, Tracy Holsinger and Andrew Fowler Watt as the panel of judges. So, let's get down to business.

First up was Ave Maria from Negombo, who had chosen a scene from Twelfth Night. With the use of minimal props and suitable costumes they managed to pull through quite effectively. Feste, whose nervousness showed through the beginning of the performance, did a good bit of recovery after the first few minutes. Olivia on the other hand was portrayed in the traditional manner bringing out her vain nature very effectively through her tone and priceless expression.

The use of stairs in their set kept me on pins hoping that no one would fall off it and literally "break a leg". So I applaud the actresses for using it to their advantage. Their performance bagged them the awards for, Best Outstation Girls' School, Best Actress (outstation school) – Roshanara Jayampathi, and Overall Best Actress too awarded to Finola Outschool.

Next up was Holy Cross with another performance of Twelfth Night. The stage opened to a group of dances in blue satin depicting the rough sea that brings Viola to the shores of Illyria. The play went from a very dramatic opening then took a disappointing plunge that made it seem very slow moving afterward.

Although I must say that the freezes were done very effectively and the bringing in of the violinists to the opening lines of Orsino was a nice effect, but would have been nicer if they actually played the violins.

The over emphasis on words and the slow pace that the cast seemed to have adopted only added to their ill advantage stunting any dramatic development. It was however, disappointing from the beginning to the end, and was a performance that should not have made it to the finals

The much anticipated performance by Bridget's College with yet another scene from Twelfth Night opened with a flourish and applause. The opening scene was very professionally done, a very impressive performance indeed. All the actresses contributed to the play in a most positive manner. The stage set up was excellently placed, the costumes very much up to standard. The actresses who played the roles of Sir Andrew Ague-cheek and Viola were in our opinion the best. Their brilliant interpretation of the characters does deserve a mention. Bridget's College seemed to be 'on fire'- a smooth and enthralling performance.

Last but most (clichéd) definitely not least was Visakha Vidyalya with their enticing performance of Taming of the Shrew. A unique interpretation of the script was when the play was given an interesting start of having three Kates, showing multiple facets of her character.

The interpretation of Catherine the cursed and split personalities was very original and was effectively executed. The proposal scene was the most dramatic and had so much of energy until of course the "licking scene" which apparently made the fairer sex feel queasy.

The beginning though slick and nicely done the ending was not so satisfactory.

The girls' finals wrapped up, the boys' seemed to have pulled in a bigger crowd two days later. With the Bishop's College Auditorium full up, the audience waited expectantly to watch the evening's proceedings. D.S. Senanayake College, Royal College, St. Joseph's College and Trinity College were battling it out for the title, and egos were at stake.

The stage sprung to life with the lively and entertaining performance by D.S.Senanayake College, of Taming of the Shrew. The stage set-up and, props and costumes which were colourful and pleasing to the eye also added to the high energy levels on stage.

The portrayal of Catherine was very strong and well done.

But it was Petruchio's exceptional performance that intrigued the audience, with his dripping sarcasm and good humour.

The proposal scene was indeed the most hilarious and scintillating moments in the play.

The next play was Shakespeare's most famous tragedy King Lear performed by Royal College. The protagonist, King Lear put up a brilliant performance that moved. He was simply fantastic and left the entire audience entranced and awestruck; as he seemed to overshadow the other characters in the play demanding all the audience' attention, nevertheless the fool's performance too must be commended. The play was very professional, the sound effects and lighting added to the brilliance of the drama especially during the storm scene.

St. Joseph's College had selected another tragedy Coriolanus. The costumes and the set were very elaborate and gave the stage a very Roman look. The actor who played Caius Martius was indeed impressive, he did his character justice. The ending was very moving and we applaud the interpretation, the freezes were very effective and the sound effects were very interesting as well, especially since it ended with the Gladiator theme song that fit the play perfectly.

Trinity College performed a scene from Othello. They had adapted a modern outlook to the tragedy. This was very effective, with the modern costumes and weapons. But it would have been far less distracting if the curtains did not open and close so often.

The highlight of the play was the ending; it was more of a mime but was very dramatic, the sound effects and the lighting used was spot on. The Best Supporting Actor was awarded to M.A.Manoj Kularatne of Wesley College.

The Bag of Awards

Girls' Schools
Winners: St. Bridgets' Convent (Twelfth Night)
First Runner up: Visakha Vidyalaya (Taming of the Shrew)
Best Outstation School: Ave Maria (Twelfth Night)
Best Actress: Roshanara Jayampathy, Ave Maria Convent (Feste, Twelfth Night)
Best Actress (Outstation): Roshanara Jayampathy Ave Maria Convent (Feste, Twelfth Night)
Best Supporting Actress: Trudy Herft, St. Bridgets' Convent (Feste, Twelfth Night)

Boys' Schools
Winners: Royal College (King Lear)
First Runner up: D.S. Senanayake College (Taming of the Shrew)
Best Outstation School: Trinity College (Othello)
Best Actor: Yasas Ratnayake, Royal College (King Lear, King Lear)
Best Actress (Outstation): Isuru Gunaratne, Trinity College (Iago, Othello)

There are the couple of criticisms that need pondering upon, the main of which, is the selection for the finals. The selection of Holy Cross, in our opinion should have been avoided. As with all good award ceremonies, awards should not be given out for the sake of it. If out of the five schools that came for prelims, only three deserve to be in the finals, do it so. This would ensure quality in the final showcasing, and would help to maintain a certain standard.

Competitions and award ceremonies are not charities. They are done to recognize excellence. Keeping to that line of thinking, Shakes is done to recognize excellence on stage of Schools around the country. For a school to be recognized, and given exposure, they should deserve it. If this aspect of Shakes can be sorted out, along with a couple of organizing glitches, this can be a made into the best, and most awaited competition in the school theatre circle. We await.

  • Yohan2008-10-28 16:33:48

    The Best Supporting Actor was NOT M. A. Manoj Kularatne as stated in the article, but M. Shazard Synon of Wesley College.

  • shenella seneviratne2008-11-02 18:58:31

    awsome very well done congrats to the st.bridgets shakespeare cast

  • drama_queen2008-11-21 15:48:23

    D.S really should have won !!!!!

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