Performance in a Time of Terror : Five Sinhala Plays from Sri Lanka book cover
1st Edition

Performance in a Time of Terror
Five Sinhala Plays from Sri Lanka

ISBN 9780367625153
Published March 30, 2021 by Routledge India
174 Pages 10 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

This volume is a collection of five Sinhala plays, translated into English, which were written and performed during the most violent phase of modern Sri Lankan history.

Ranjini Obeyesekere’s translation of these five well-known and celebrated plays by K. B. Herath, Prasannajith Abeysuriya, Dhananjaya Karunarathne, Prasanna Jayakody and Rajitha Dissanayake highlights and explores the dynamic period of Sri Lankan theater and performance arts in the 1980s and 1990s. The plays in this collection offered a political space for criticism, introspection, discussion and protest during a time of suppression of voices, political violence and terror. Audiences flocked to the theater to watch plays produced by talented dramatists and artists who were experimenting with forms and themes under extremely challenging circumstances, shoe-string budgets and strict censorship. Kanchuka Dharmasiri’s introduction to the volume further details the history and socio-political contexts of the theater of this period, discussing themes such as dissent, identity and the brutal power of the state. She also looks at the unique formal elements employed in these plays as well as their influence and reach.

This volume is a significant addition to the growing corpus of Sinhala literature in translation. It will be an essential read for scholars and researchers of literature, performance studies, cultural studies, and the politics and history of Sri Lanka.

Table of Contents

Preface by Ranjini Obeyesekere.

Introduction by Kanchuka Dharmasiri.

1. Māyā Dēvi / Goddess of Illusion (1984) by K.B. Herath

2. Dukgannārāla / The Bearer of Woes (1989) by Prasannajith Abeysuriya

3. Jūriya / The Jury (1993) by Dhananjaya Karunaratne

4. Sevanäli saha Minissu / Shadows and Men (1993) by Prasanna Jayakody

5. Mata Veḍitiyannädda? / Aren’t You Going to Shoot Me? (1999) by Rajitha Dissanayake.


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Ranjini Obeyesekere has translated Sinhala prose and poetry for foreign and local journals, and anthologies. Her publications include Portraits of Buddhist Women from the Sadharmaratnāvaliya (2001); Yasodhara: Wife of the Bodhisattva (2009); and Sinhala Poetry in Translation (2017) among others.

Kanchuka Dharmasiri teaches in the Department of English at the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka. She is also a theater director and translator.


‘Moulded in the crucible of economic crisis and political turmoil between the 1980s and ’90s in Sri Lanka, the widely-performed Sinhalese plays translated and collected in this volume ferret out the complex interface between a multiform theatre, violence and repression.’

Ashis Sengupta, University of North Bengal, India

‘Dr. Ranjini Obeyesekere is a writer, critic and an experienced translator of Sinhala literary works into English. As an actress, a director and producer of plays in both languages, her love of the theatre goes back to her early years and remains unabated. Her linguistic and theoretical competence, her experience and love of the theater, make her eminently suited to do justice to these plays.’ 

Michael Fernando, BA (Ceylon), DPhil Berlin), Former Head, Department of Fine Arts, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka 

‘Sri Lanka's contemporary Sinhala theatre stands out as a vibrant space for social comment and questioning. Superbly translated by award-winning scholar Ranjini Obeyesekere, this unique collection of plays is an invaluable asset to global theatre studies, world humanities, and the study of peace and conflict.’

Kathryn Hansen, University of Texas, Austin, USA