Blood Money flows in Colombo

Saturday, 14 June 2014 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

A famous TV personality’s act of cowardice – a deadly secret carried for years – all comes to a head in Blood Money, a thriller by the Heather Brothers that promises to deliver something a little different to Colombo’s theatre fans than what they’re used to. On the boards on 20, 21 and 22 June at the Lionel Wendt Theatre, and performed by the Silent Hands Creative Circle, Blood Money is quite a bold first directorial choice from Javin Thomas, a veteran of Colombo’s theatre circle. The Weekend FT sat down with Javin, Executive Producer Jehan Bastians and the cast to find what they plan to do. Following are excerpts:     By David Ebert Q: Javin, first off, tell me about your background in theatre, your theatrical influences and how much of a difference has your involvement in theatre made in your life? Javin: I stepped onto the stage at the age of five, and took to drama in earnest, participating for four consecutive years in the All-Island Inter-School Shakespeare Drama Competition (2003-2006), and was part of the winning cast in 2006. I was also part of the school’s winning cast at the Royal College Interact Drama Competition of the same year. Post-school, with public productions such as ‘Equus’ (directed by Steve de la Zilwa – 2007) and ‘Tom, Dick and Harry’ (directed by Jehan Bastians and Neidra Williams – 2008) and ‘The Wiz’ (by the Wendy Whatmore Academy). That’s pretty much my acting career. After that, I was involved in many productions as stage manager, backstage assistance, lights, sounds, etc. I also co-directed Visakha Vidyalaya in 2008 and 2009 at the Shakespeare Drama Competition, at which the school emerged runners up, and at the Royal College Drama Competition in the same two years, when the school emerged champions. I was also part of the team that directed Newstead Girls’ School at the Shakespeare Drama Competition of 2010 – the school secured the champions trophy for the first time in its experience at the competition. I have worked as a producer has been involved in productions such as ‘Unsung Theory’ by Anushka Senanayake, ‘What If’ by Wasaam Ismail, and ‘Yes, Honourable Minister’, ‘Nobody’s Perfect’ and ‘The Secret Life of Sherlock Holmes’ by Jehan Bastians and Neidra Williams, in addition to supporting several other public and school-based performances in terms of direction and production. Being in theatre has changed everything in my life for the good of course.   Q: The Heather Brothers are well known more for their musicals. What made you choose Blood Money as your first directorial effort? Javin: The script itself had a lot of emotion – the word play between each character and the twists in the play, and because it was very female dominant I really wanted to direct a play which was dominant by strong females the moment Jehan and Neidra asked me to direct under their theatre company Silent Hands Creative Circle.   Q: Blood Money as a script is more of a serious thriller than a comedy which brings to light infidelity, dishonesty and insincerity. You’ve referred to it as a comedy/thriller. How would you explain this? Neidra: Yes it has plenty of that of course, but a lot of the characters also use plenty of sarcasm and wit in to their dialog. The script is witty and charged with moments that are outright funny. There are moments when the audience just gets to sit and laugh out loud. We billed it as a Comedy-Thriller so that our audience will know what to expect in the play.   Q: How does Blood Money differ from a typical whodunit? Jehan: The obvious is that there is no goody-two-shoes detective out there to solve a murder! At any given point the audience is more in the know than the characters on stage as to what is happening. They (the audience) are on a journey with the character on stage….no one knows who the final target is!   Q: Let’s talk about the cast and why you’ve chosen them for these individual roles. Javin: Because I felt each of them had at least some aspects of the character in them. So they were playing roles they could identify with. Makes both our jobs easier and the cast that I have got is very hard working.   Q: How difficult is it as a first time director to successfully recreate serious characters like this? Javin: Well I won’t call it difficult because the cast I got has the so much talent to portray such characters.   Q: Why do you think theatre is so important to society and how much of a difference can it make in bringing to light serious issues? Jehan: Well, as in the case of all Silent Hands productions. We are looking to entertain! Not to analyse and discuss social issues. So I don’t know if we qualify to answer this question.   Q: What can the audience expect from your staging of Blood Money? Javin: A night of good theatre. A balanced script giving some meaty roles for the actors involved – some of Sri Lanka’s finest actors in English theatre under one roof in one play. A slice of life – even if it’s a very different life!   Q: Neidra, how has the experience been so far and how has it been working with Javin as a director? Neidra: I have worked with Javin in many capacities; as director-backstage manager, director-producer, director-actor and now role reversal director Javin and actor me. So, I guess it’s safe to say that we understand each other. There are glimpses of Javin’s directing that reflect how Jehan and I approach a play when we direct and then there are aspects that are just entirely him. It’s lovely to see him evolve in to this stage of his life and also watch as he has to deal with issues and crisis and overcome them. I really hope he will take this start that we gave him through Silent Hands to continue to direct productions in the future.   Q: What do you think about your roles and how has your experience been so far in preparation? Shanuki (Julie Campbell): My role is very interesting in that it is pivotal when it comes to the plot, but that’s about all I can say without revealing too much. It’s been challenging because the character goes through a range of emotions whilst at the same time having to control them. Presenting the subtleties of Julie Campbell’s personal to the audience taps into more energy and focus than I first imagined it would. There is a lot of cerebral acting required for this character and the experience has been quite educational because I’ve had to dig deep to understand what makes her tick and then translate that into a highly controlled performance. I hope I do it justice. Javin’s been great to work with. This may be his official directorial debut, but he has years of experience in theatre and knows exactly what he wants and how to inspire an actor with his vision. Plus he’s an awesome person so it’s a pleasure to work with him. Andre (Mike Mason): This is my first play where I’m playing a lead character and it being the only male role, amongst a strong female dominated play, it’s been quite challenging. I play an egotistic, outgoing, ladies’ man who is a popular TV show presenter at the time. I’m quite enjoying the experience in trying to bring out his characteristics which isn’t necessarily who I am in real life. The challenge is to balance off the outward ego with the darkness Mike Mason displays with people he can’t stand, mostly his wife. Working with Javin in his directorial debut has been great. I’ve known him for a while and he has some great insight into how he would like the actors to portray the roles. His knowledge in theatre is invaluable in order to guide us through the vision he has for this play. I’m sure we’ll see much more of him as a director in the future. Liza (Sue Thompson): Playing the role of Sue is rather exciting as she is not only an enticing version of the typical “girl next door” but also has a subtle innocence about her coupled with a curious nature. She is also quite intriguing as she possesses a slightly mischievous persona.