By Cheranka Mendis
From the rolling giggling beans to the utterly cute fertilizer bag, from the little Jack to the shadow puppetry- Jack and the SOY Beanstalk presented by the Royal College English Drama Society was truly an ‘epic’ performance.
Giving a twist to the age old classic- Jack and the beanstalk, the young Royalists managed to keep the audience spellbound with the colour, innovation, brilliant acting and pun during the last two days. An adoption of Jerrod Bogard’s classic, the SOY Beanstalk was a hilarious theatrical performance spun on a Sri Lankan setting bringing the play closer to heart.
In the new adoption Jack (Mevanka Gunasekera) is still a struggling kid- but this kid is struggling in a capitalist world where prices of goods are sky rocketing backed by the high flying oil prices. Jack living with his brother (Suran Weerasekara) is compelled to take action if he wants to continue living his life the way he knows it- a world where computer games and i-pods rule the day. Left with only their old red tuk tuk- their family vehicle, and no money to fuel the vehicle to actually run it; its Jack’s job to sell the old vehicle and bring home the crispy bills. Finding his brother’s old sarong, a broom and an axe his imagination runs wild and putting that into good use, Jack comes up with a brand new innovation ‘a solar powered tuk’ – the first of its kind!
The story unravels as Jack sets out to sell his new product to the biggies in the industry and his first stop ‘Big Aggies Reaping Farms’- a big time industrial farm is a failure. He leaves while the security at Big Aggies mock his efforts and is fortunately blown towards ‘Magic Acre Farms’ where he meets the quirky old farmer who gives him seventeen magic beans and a bag of fertilizer (Mihin Wanigasekera) in exchange of the solar powered tuk-tuk.
What follows is a maddening climb on a beanstalk which manages to grow out of the commode after him flushing all of it (fertilizer bag and all) down the toilet after getting reprimanded by a furious brother to find the giant’s den. With a goose that lays golden eggs, an i-harp (Madara Thalduwa) that raps and the giant’s wife in pink frills- Jack is caught up in a maddening world where everything is two sizes too big. His heroic efforts to save the goose who was subjected to murder by the giant who wanted all the golden eggs at once, pays off when he climbs down- goose and all and chops of the beanstalk ending the oversize life of the giant.
Young Royalists really did turn a simple classic into something else bringing out poignant messages to the audience of the world we live in- a world where giant multi-nationals are dominating the world’s economy and are only apprehensive about the bottom line. Throughout the play music, tunes, shadow puppetry and larger-than-life visual elements played its part to fascinate the crowd. A special mention must be made of little Mihin Wanigasekera along with his little bean friends (all grade one students) that really caught the audience by surprise and excitement. Dancing along waving his white gloved arms frantically, the fertilizer bag was just adorable. He now has a large cult following him after seeing his performance on stage. Squealing while Jack runs behind him to flush him down the toilet- little Mihin was the star of the show.
Mevanka who played Jack was brilliant and it was pleasant to see such a young head pounding out his lines in delight. You could just picture him in greater roles to come, one more to the eager thespians of Royal College.
The production initiated by Royal College Deputy Principal (Primary School) and Head of the English DramSoc Lakshmi Attygalle had Sulochana Dissanayake as Musical Director assisted by Themal Ellawala. Vocal direction was by Nicole Liyanage and choreography by Wendy Perera (La Salle ’08 / ATCL Musical Theatre). This is the first ever public production performed entirely by a junior cast (involving over 100 of the youngest talent from grades 1-9) in the history of Royal College. The Royal College choir also sang during the performance.
Dissanayake speaking to Daily FT stated that the two day show was a huge success and saw many firsts’ on show. “It was the first major production by the Royal College primary. It was the first time for many budding actors and the first time for most of the parents who were part of the organizing team. It was also the biggest production to go on stage at Navarangahala,” she said. “We didn’t know how we were going to pull it off, but we did. And it was a huge success given the fact that the script was originally written for four adults and we extended it to over 100 students and was performed after practising for just three months.”
Certainly this is just one step for the budding young actors of Royal College who performed with enthusiasm, precession and just the right touch of childishness. The lines bore clarity and excitement as they tumbled on the audience, a positive surprise for all of us who sat grinning like mad Cheshire cats throughout the play. Hats off to the little cast and the supporting hands behind it- it was a show well worth watching.