Hymns for the Drowning

Rani Moorthy, artistic director of the Rasa theatre, Manchester, performed a new fist stage of a new play on 18 November. In preparation for it Rani worked with the Tamil community in Manchester for more than three months, investigating the experiences of the victims of the Sri Lankan military conflict before bringing that story to the stage.

Reviewd by Keerthikan

In the drama Rani played three characters. The first character made people laugh by comparing Tamil and English cultures.

Then video clips of interviews with the victims of the Sri Lankan conflict who live in Manchester were shown in the theatre. Both older and young people spoke about their personal experiences which span from the 1960s to the last battle in 2009.

After these film clips Rani performed as an elderly Tamil woman who is really upset about the genocide in Sri Lanka. This character performs the reaction to the news that Jaffna library, in the Tamil-speaking north of Sri Lanka has been burned. This ‘grandma’ expressed disappointment that history has been wrongly interpreted. She entreated everyone to tell their own history and not to be silent, warning that if you are silent others may write your history.

After this performance a video clip of the Sri Lankan war crimes was shown.

Then Rani performed as an American Tamil woman. This character is very angry about a member of her own family going to do business in post-war Sri Lanka.

Then a video of the so called ‘peace song’ was shown on the screen Which was brilliantly edited to show the real attrocities at the background.

After that TU Senan, the international coordinator of the Tamil Solidarity campaign, spoke. Senan has recently returned from Sri Lanka. He described the real conditions in the conflict area. In his speech he explained how, inside the Vanni area, there are no buildings at all; there are no proper schools, no houses and people face danger from wild animals.

The Sri Lankan government is receiving lots of money from charity and other governments but insists it has no money to build houses. Senan stated that during the war the Sri Lankan government spent $2 million every day but now it claims it has no money to help the victims.

After Senan speech’s the audience was invited to contribute and to ask questions. The questions particularly focused on the burned Jaffna library in 1981 and 1983.

Rani’s performance shows how drama and art can be used to challenge oppression.