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The Travelling Circus on video: Looking at war and IDPs through theatre

Obligingly recorded by Young Asia Television at the request of Groundviews, we are pleased to present a full-length video recording of a technical rehearsal / run-through of The Travelling Circus, produced by Mind Adventures, directed by Tracy Holsinger and recently staged in Colombo.

An in-depth review of the production is published on Groundviews here.

[UPDATE, 16 December 2016: Apologies. The original content producer has taken down the video off Vimeo.]

The production divided opinion, with some liking it and others, with equal passion, disliking it.

This full-length video of the production (even though it is a technical rehearsal) records for posterity one of the first theatre productions in post-war Sri Lanka interrogating vital yet often marginalized issues such as psycho-social trauma and human displacement due to war. Those who missed the production in Colombo, including those in the diaspora, are strongly encouraged to watch this video and leave their comments. We were also told that some at the edge of the audience couldn’t hear what was said on stage due to poor sound transmission. This video gives them another chance to catch the production’s interesting wordplay and themes.


For an interview with Tracy Holsinger, click on The Travelling Circus: A different take on IDPs in Sri Lanka

For a longer interview with Tracy speaking on theatre and the arts in Sri Lanka, click on In conversation with Tracy Holsinger

  • Democracy has a way to express patriotism, national self determination and the acceptance of an overriding sense of common good as a standard of loyalty. The purpose of it is preservation and separate development.

    This principle was well understood and agreed by all the citizens as foundations for our freedom, when they – Muslims, Tamils and Sinhalese -accepted the partial independence of dominion status for Ceylon in 1948.

    The two major political parties, the UNP and the SLFP, repeatedly in power since 1948, failed to practice true democracy and accountability.

    Greed and corruption overcame accountability and a type Sinhala totalitarianism replaced true democracy.

    In Ceylon, where even the Buddhist clergy did not follow the teachings of Buddha, about 60 percent of the people called themselves “Budddhists” – not because they chose Budddhism as the best way of life but because of their accidental birth to “Buddhist” parents – and ventured into an evil path of hatred of anti-Tamilism to bring about enormous destruction we have faced in the country since 1948.

    Presently, Budddhism in Sri Lanka(SL) has metamorphosed into a type of atheism. It may be difficult to find about 5 perecnt of the population still believing and following the teachings of Buddha. Therefore, any claim by the “Buddhist majority” is untrue and does not hold water any more.

    The young patriotic Sinhalese must understand this reality and work during the upcoming presidential elections, to establish true democracy, in a way to express patriotism for all the inhabitants in the island and self determination for the people of Tamil Eelam.

  • Ananthan

    hello Sam,
    I think your in canada? don’t reseach the name of Ceylon or srilanka who live in north and east needs peace life, you have good life in markham or scarborought with your family great jaffna vella family. but do you visit any village in north part and do you guys give good education to low cast people even do you allow those people to your temple? so leave to mahinda atlease he will do some thing better than you guys, you look arround next saturday who’s birthday and what kind brand whicky can drink and what topic story can talk?

  • yapa

    Mr. Sam Thambipillai;

    You are slinging mud based on your unreasonable ambitions, my dear. You are using this web to spread unreasonable propaganda, to get undue advantages through international community misleading them, who has no proper knowledge in ground realities here. Without telling what come to your mind, please back your statements with facts. You must be ashamed to spread such blatant lies. why are you doing this? You don’t like to see Tamils and Sinhalese live in peace? You really know more than a half of the Tamils are living in Sinhalese majority areas and they are doing their day to day activities mixing with Sinhalese people. If you are not blind (either physically or mentally ) you know this fact very clearly.

    Why are doing this harm to citizens of this country? I don’t know may be you are living in a foreign country. You don’t know the misery people of this country faced due to such wrong ideas spread by comfortable living expatriates.

    If you are ready, we can go for a reasonable debate, to see who is telling truth and who is telling lies. You are trying put all the sins on Sinhalese. You don’t see killings of thousands of innocent Sinhalese people by Tamil racists. Are you partially blind?

    Please Mr. Thambipillai,


    If you like we are ready to show who the real culprit is. Stop singing emotional songs. Are you ready for a debate?

  • Atheist

    Re: The Travelling Circus

    I thought the stage was overrun with a lot of busy movements and props that took away from the seriousness of whatever that was trying to be addressed. However, despite the horrible sound system, the young woman who played the part of “Auntie” projected her voice very well! I also liked the “cow” – performed with much enthusiasm by another talented young woman.

    I am not belittling the drama, but, to my observation, this post-modern experiment, unfortunately, felt like a mockery (though it wasn’t meant to be) of the peoples’ suffering – all the parties involved. I liked the use of Vanilla Ice’s “Ice, Ice, Baby”, Britney Spears (I think the lyrics were changed from “hit me” to “kill me”) and Russell Peter’s famous line “Somebody gonna get hurt!” Having said that, it would’ve brought more credibility to the drama had the playwright been more attuned to the village sensibility; to me, the actors did not convey any village “character” whatsoever.

    Perhaps it’s a good idea for this drama troupe to work closely with their suffering brothers and sisters in remote villages.

    Best Wishes,

  • Please keep your comments relevant to the original post. Consider Sam Thambipillai’s ill-placed comment closed for further discussion.

    Comments on the play are encouraged and welcomed.

  • Sabes

    I consider this play as a play about the part of the phsychology of the contry that wants to understand and overcome what has happned. The phschy then re-lives what happned in order to come to terms with it. Re living was disturbing. The Play was disturbing but necessary. Fragments of the real experince were played out but as the trauma of the experince of the people who faced it in the first place. By the vitute of becoming public as a play then as the experince of the whole nation and beyond. Helpless villagers running for their lives from those air gun ships is a shared phsychological experince from Vietnam to Vanni. Even if it was not shown the audience would see it in their minds eyes. Ironically perhaps this joins the peoples.

    Just before watching the play I read an article describing Sri Lanka as a ‘failed state ‘ in Thesamnet (Ravi Sintharalingam) and then Dhayabala Thiranagama in Groundviews about the grim prospect of the forthcoming elections. Both articles also touch on the political incapacity of the Tamil Parties to play a role in the elections to negotiate a solution to the national ethnic issues. After reading these to watch the play which was played at a psychological plain is trully distubing.

    Technically I felt that the play needed some more polishig. It looked rough and chaotic than its necessary. I don’t know if this was intended or not. That’s my personal taste anyway.