STIMULATING SOCIAL CHANGE
Ruvin De Silva
“Theatre remains any society’s sharpest way to hold a live debate with itself,” states renowned English director Peter Hall. Artists take risks, tell stories people are not emotionally prepared to engage with, and hold up a mirror to reflect the realities of society. They actively shape the culture around us, and theatre as a whole awakens people’s social and political consciousness. Actor, photographer and musician Ruvin de Silva renders on how his theatrical and cinematic performances as well as photography have contributed collectively in his fabricated space to practice change-making.
“I think as an artist, there are two ways you can go: you can go on this path that is easy or you can go on a path that’s going to constantly challenge you” states Ruvin, whose interaction between forms of art and presence in these fields are remarkable due to the unmitigated thoughtprovoking point of view of the works of art. While practicing his music, in 2007 Ruvin auditioned for an adaptation of ‘Chatroom’ (2007) directed by Tracy Holsinger. ‘Chatroom’ is Enda Walsh’s taut tragicomedy about six teenagers in a virtual room. Conversations range in subject from Britney Spears to Willy Wonka to — suicide: Jim is depressed and talks of ending his life and Eva and William decide to do their utmost to persuade him to carry out his threat. From this chilling premise is forged a funny, compelling and uplifting play that tackles the issues of teenage life head-on and with great understanding. Ruvin played the role of Jake in the play, which he describes as a premise to transforming his way of thinking; political and personal.
According to the dramatist Bertolt Brecht, the purpose of theatre is not to entertain and evoke emotions, but to coax the audience to reflect on their experiences in a way that encourages theatergoers to take action. Ruvin’s performances are timely, thought-provoking and incite social action. Ruvin performed in ‘Paraya’ (2013-2014) directed by Arun Welandawe-Prematilleke, a play that follows ten interweaving characters from the island of Sri Lanka, whose narratives play out simultaneously, offering the audience a chance to follow any character, wherever he goes. “The play became a mouthpiece of the convoluted condition of the country at that period and questioned what we as the public were scared and terrified to confront,” states Ruvin. ‘Paraya’ was an immersive theatrical experience, using the abandoned Rio Hotel with its crumbling walls as a venue, an apt metaphor for the dystopian political state. Being forced to wear surgical masks and being corralled and controlled heightened the sense of repressiveness in this world where the political system attempts to produce obedient, unquestioning citizens. Ruvin’s performance of Rajiv Kurukulasuriya depicted how the political bodies have imposed control on the citizens, and thereupon inflicting pain, paranoia, sexual perversion and violence. ‘Only Soldiers’ (2015), a play inspired by Michael Tomilson’s ‘The Dangerous Moment’ explores a similar sensibility in terms of historicity.
His awareness of the relationship between sociopolitical agenda and visual narratives gained through experimental English Theatre is translated to film as well. His role as a young monk in Vimukthi Jayasundera’s film ‘Dark in the White Light’ (2014) reveals a character that attempts to understand nature and the universe. The film begins with the induction of this novice monk who has once mused over death. The dilemma and the convoluted state of mind of the characters, the film interweaves various stories of fraying bodies, on the threshold of pain, between life and death.
Ruvin’s most recent work is in the film ‘Marine Drive’ produced by Pruve scheduled to be released by the end of 2019. ‘Marine Drive’ is a local Sinhala film in a dystopian setting where the president of the country is controlling the perception of society during which a group of journalists investigate the truth and their diabolical political conduct. Ruvin plays the protagonist, an ordinary everyday man. “Even after talking with the crew and directors, they kept saying that this guy is not real, he is an ideal. This character is from nothing, he’s not a person who has a major military background, but a regular citizen who one day decides that he’s going to save the country from its dystopia. Once I did my research, I realized that these kind of roles are so hard to find,” Ruvin explained. The protagonist’s evolutions are sudden yet anticipated, complicated yet driven, actions born out of the common grounds who realizes his capability to topple the system. This unconventional aspect of his character drew Ruvin to the project, where he performed away from his comfort zone as an actor to experiment and evolve in the Sinhalese cinema industry.
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ARTRA is Sri Lanka’s Art Magazine exploring curated content on Sri Lanka’s visual art, performance art, applied art and written art. Launched in 2012, ARTRA Magazine is a compact monthly art read providing a comprehensive understanding on Sri Lankan artists, art events, monthly art calendars and the Sri Lankan design landscape. In sum, all you need to know about art in Sri Lanka.