‘A Complaint by a Man’ – a story for the new generation

Be The Change campaign presented the newest addition to the series of brilliant theatre productions by Kapila Rasnayake – “A Complaint by a Man”.

Written and directed by Kapila Rasnayake, the play aimed to explore patriarchy, male sentiments, and the consequences of deep-rooted gender norms. Structured in simple interview form, the play attempted to tackle a wide spectrum of issues concerning gender definitions perpetuated in our society, whilst squeezing in a lot of laughs.

Speaking on the concept of the play, Kapila Rasnayake stated: “This is not a production simply made for the purpose of entertainment; this is complaint against society and we should create a dialog about gender roles assigned by society.” He further added: “I believe this is a special production because issues on women and girls are often voiced through drama while the issues on masculinity are neglected. So, this is a voice to that side of the spectrum.”

The narrative was focused on two main characters: the police constable played by Saranga Disasekara and a litigant who had an interesting complaint, played by the Director Kapila Rasnayake himself.

The story unfolds as the litigant dictates the social injustices he was subjected to since childhood. He takes the rather confused police constable and the audience through the different stages of his life, pointing out the specific gender norms that were ingrained into his head about girls and boys.

Dinakshie Priyasad plays the roles of the women in the litigant’s life.While a very sensitive subject matter was in discussion, the employment of humour was impressive; it was a combination of rather subtle comedy together with subtle social commentary. As it is common with most Sri Lankan audiences, the physical comedy was received with applause.

The comedy made a great contribution in delivering the message. Handled by obviously gifted actors, it was a very natural execution, and this in turn depicted the marvellous writing.

The frequent use of music in between scenes was a little distracting as it got in the way of the flow of the plot. An argument can be made, however, that due to the make-believe nature of this production, the use of these songs was appropriate.
All the performances were memorable.

However, Saranga Disasekara was clearly the star of the play. It is safe to say that he managed to reach a new level of excellence with this performance; effortless, natural, and completely fascinating.

The production, however, failed to evoke strong emotions towards the theme discussed or any of the characters, mostly due to its rather simple style of narrative. One could even argue that it was quite juvenile. However, the message was loud and clear.

The audience was very pleased with the performance – the actors received a few standing ovations as well. Most audience members were moved by the theme of the play.

Audience member Ayoni Munasinghe stated: “This is a great way to reach out to the public. This is a very prominent problem in Sri Lanka, but it is not recognised until it is actually pointed out. I have been to Kapila’s previous productions and there is a vast improvement in the audience numbers as well. Now, more and more people want to know what they have to say. The posters generated a big impact on social media as well this time, which is a very positive step towards this movement.”