Colombo, Disabilities

A different kind of theatre in Sri Lanka

Groundviews was recently able to cover the rehearsals for two up-coming plays, An Inspired Swan Lake and Human Touch, which will premiere together on the 28th of October and then on the 29th of October. The directors Jehan Aloysius and Nalinda Premaratne have worked extensively over the last couple of months with extremely talented disabled individuals from the Sunera Foundation and the Ranaviru Sevana, who were impressively skilful in their acting and physical performances that most of us would find cumbersome. What was immediately striking was that these productions were anchored to a vital issue – disability. Affirmative action towards influencing the public policy to accommodate and look after the rights of disabled individuals was not apparent until the latter part of 2009 and ignored by successive governments.

Groundviews sought to highlight the issue of disability in Sri Lanka following the recent Supreme Court ruling which ordered the construction of public buildings with facilities that allow easy access to disabled members of the public and the provision of necessary sanitation facilities. However, as highlighted in the interview with Sunethra Bandaranaike recently featured on Groundviews, the judgement falls short of being a comprehensive solution in that it only deals with the construction of public buildings in the future, and not the implementation of disabled friendly facilities in existing buildings. Moreover, the judgement only focuses on public buildings, completely neglecting the construction of private buildings (e.g. banks, supermarkets, offices), only very few of which are disabled friendly. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court ruling is a progressive step and strongly welcomed. Sunera Foundation’s productions in the context of this ruling help raise awareness on the issue of disability, and beyond theatre, encourage us to be more sensitive towards the needs and aspirations of those disabled.

An interview with Nalinda Premaratne, director of Human Touch, touches upon social perceptions of disability and Nalinda’s own learning and experiences by working with the disabled through theatre.

For a related video that covers the productions and the issues they touch upon in Sinhala, visit Vikalpa here.