Paraya: A short review

I (along with three others) was invited by The Sunday Times to write a short review of Paraya, the latest production by the Mind Adventures theatre company. It was published on the Mirror Magazine and you can find it at http://www.sundaytimes.lk/131006/magazine/hit-by-paraya-64620.html

I’m reproducing my review here.

Mind Adventures is one of the few reasons (another being Ruwanthie De Chickera’s Stages Theatre Group) I still patronize English language theatre productions in Sri Lanka. While I’m a huge fan of Broadway musicals, it is heartening that there are theatre companies that strive towards originality, pushing beyond rehashing musicals. However, originality can come in many forms and what makes Mind Adventures stand out is the intelligence in their productions. They make you think for days after and in the case of Paraya, I’ll be thinking for weeks and months.

At the abandoned Hotel Rio, Mind Adventures created an alternate world that was at the same time very familiar. From the moment you stepped into this space, the apprehension that “anything could happen” was palpable. Starting from little details like the unsmiling ushers sternly asking us to stay in line at the gate, the cast did an excellent job in ensuring that this atmosphere was maintained throughout the production though I felt the audience was not so helpful at times.

I wish the number of audience members could have been limited to about 50-60 but understandably there may be logistical and financial challenges in doing so. It was clear that most audience members were unprepared for Paraya and their confusion and lack of engagement diminished the intensity of the production. Personal conversations, trying to locate friends, etc. took away from the atmosphere and space that Mind Adventures had created both with their acting as well as with the choice of location, props, lighting, etc. This will probably be remedied with time as audiences become more familiar with nontraditional forms of theatre because for many it was their first experience of immersive theatre including myself.

Having seen Arun Welandawe-Prematilleke on stage, I was curious about his work as a Director. While there were some technical glitches, the Director, cast and crew should be lauded for the military precision in the simultaneous execution of the scenes that melded into one production.

I can’t speak about each actor within my word limit but out of the characters I followed that night, Ruvin de Silva’s Rajiv Kurukulasuriya deserves special mention. I got the chance to engage with this character and to watch certain scenes up close and I was in awe of how Ruvin lived and breathed Rajiv without breaking character even for a second.

When I finally stepped out of Hotel Rio, it was with a familiar feeling. I had witnessed and heard horrific things happening around me whether it was censorship or militarization or torture. By not speaking out and by staying under the radar, I had come out unscathed. Unscathed but with an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach that is still lingering.

Photo by Brandon Ingram (from the Facebook event page)Image

Advertisements