Insight into a prisoner's life

Tribulation time

Insight into a prisoner's life

Lighting on the stage is dim. Suddenly two men, dressed in tattered clothes and mud all over their bodies, come running in it. Cursing their jailor, both black men, prisoners in a South African jail, start discussing the play which they plan to perform before their fellow prisoners and guards.

But as they begin to rehearse, the two draw parallels between the play and their present condition and question their situation.

The Island, a Sri Lankan play presented before the audience on the third day of the ongoing 15th Bharat Rang Mahotsav by Colombo-based Wings Theatre Group, threw light on the concepts of human rights. It raised question about powerful individuals behind laws who decide fate of prisoners, by narrating the story of these two jail inmates.

The story was based on a South African novel and was adapted in Sinhala as Ahinsakayinge Aramaya. It revolved around Johne (Sanjeewa Upendra, director of the play), an intellectual fellow and Winston (Jehan Srikantha Appuhami), an active
rebel, serving their rigorous imprisonment in a prison located on an island. 

They both are rehearsing for their performance in Antigone, the Greek tragic heroine, who was given life imprisonment for burying her own brother, a soldier in Creone state army.

Though Winston finds difficult to learn the lines of her role and is not willing to act like a woman on stage for being scared of becoming an object of mockery among his fellow inmates, Johne persuades encourages him. Annoyed with Johne, Winston does not want to do the play as he gets to know that Johne’s sentence has been reduced and will be released in three months.

With this announcement, Winston deprives himself of human contact. Being bereft of family ties and bonds of affection, the thought of losing his best friend pinches Winston to the core. He feels anguish and jealousy and desires to get out of the jail. He weeps and feels helpless. He imagines the day when Johne will be free of handcuffs and with his family.

Finally, Winston finally decides to perform in Antigone and begins to relate to the trial and punishment of Antigone. While performing, both Johne, who acts as a King of Creone state, and Winston as Antigone, wonder about the concept  of human rights. 

“The play is about humanity and freedom. It tried to bring out the emotions of prisoners and the relationships they share with each other, “says Sanjeewa Upendra, who for the first time performed in Bharat Rang Mahotsava.

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