A silver lining in the dark cloud of uncertainty and upheaval enveloping and reshaping our world appeared, much to the delight of the students of the drama clubs of Gateway College Colombo and Gateway College Kandy, when “Silent Hands Productions” in conjunction with “PodHub”, presented the opportunity to revive the legacy of The Bard with “Distanced Shakespeare” – a virtual Shakespeare Drama Competition which was held live online on Sunday the 16 th of August 2020. “Distanced Shakespeare”, the first of its kind to be held in Sri Lanka, did indeed turn out to be a novel adventure as it required the participants of the competition to recreate the magic of the dramatic works of William Shakespeare utilizing carefully selected play extracts, while grappling with one of the primary means of communication available during this period of isolation amid the pandemic: video conferencing. Thereby necessitating the performances to be carried out via a Zoom meeting.
Gateway College Colombo as well as Gateway College Kandy entered the category for School participants with their respective casts, offering their unique interpretations of the excerpts from “Henry VIII” with its particular political relevance to modern times. The main challenge the competition presented to all contestants was to achieve the level of suspension of disbelief that may be reached on stage in the presence of a live audience, while being restricted to the impersonal medium of Zoom, with the added challenge of being confined to their own personal spaces maintaining essential physical distance from their respective teams of ensembles and crew.
Despite the inherent challenges of the technology underpinning the medium of performance which the students were compelled to contend with for weeks, while exploring novel and engaging ways to reveal the intricacies of the complex characters they were called upon to portray, Gateway College Colombo emerged victorious in the first ever “Distanced Shakespeare” Competition in Sri Lanka.
Rukshala Wijesingha, Menura De Silva and Mika’il Hassan of Gateway College Colombo made their alma mater proud by winning the most coveted awards for Best Actor in a Main Female Role, Best Actor in a Main Male Role and Best Actor in a Supporting Male Role respectively. Gateway College Kandy followed suit by successfully securing the position of 1 st Runners-Up and the award for Best Actor in a Supporting Female Role. Methodist College, Colombo emerged the 2 nd Runner-up. The polished performances by all participants in the competition were praised much by the esteemed judges, Mr. Indu Dharmasena, Mr. Mohamed Adamaly and Mr. Sanith Wijeratne.
A most notable highlight of the event was the occasion for the words of accolade and advice offered by the judges to the cast and crew of Gateway College Colombo, indicating the turning of a new leaf in the field of performance arts practiced within our homeland :
“Very, very good use of the medium, costume, lighting, staging and the creativity behind the introduction.” (Mr. Sanith Wijeratne – Judge of Distanced Shakespeare 2020)
“What I really liked in particular was the fact that they also acted to screen, because there was very controlled expression of emotion.” (Mr. Mohamed Adamaly– Judge of Distanced Shakespeare 2020)
“It was very well put into the modern context.” (Mr. Indu Dharmasena – Judge of Distanced Shakespeare 2020)