Tissa Devendra in Island, 14 June 2020, where the title reads “Irangani Meedeniya and Ludowyk’s ‘DramSoc’ “
Madapatha Uditha’s interesting socio-cultural essay, ‘Searching for Irangani’, refers only very briefly to the University plays she adorned – 1947 to 1951. I am probably, the only survivor of the University, at Thurstan Road, who associated, briefly, with Irangani when she was fondly called ‘Chandy’ Meedeniya. As a student of English and French, I was an acolyte of Professor Lyn Ludowyk and, thus, gravitated to his Dram Soc and the unusual plays he produced. I was flattered when he slotted me into some minor role. It was both inspirational and educative to experience his interpretation of roles and gentle direction of undergrads who had never acted before.
I never missed seeing a DramSoc play and it was there I first saw Irangani, on stage, in Pinero’s ‘The Second Mrs. Tanqueray’. Her voice, diction and body language were perfect. I believe the male lead was Osmund Jayaratne of the booming voice. As an English drama lover, from Ludowyk’s ‘stable’, I found myself in the Committee of the DramSoc, alongside our Professor and Irangani.
It was during this period that Irangani starred in ‘Antigone’ as the loving daughter of Oedipus, her blinded father. Winston Serasinghe [whom she married years later] was Oedipus. The raw emotion, she projected in that role, is legendary and has never been equalled in our ‘English’ dramatic productions.
Ludowyk was always abreast of theatre developments in Europe. He, therefore, invited the Hungarian producer, Neumann Jubal, to produce a play, or two, for the University. Jubal was a hearty larger-than-life character. He had never worked with a cast of Asian undergraduates. In spite of this, he moulded a large cast of our actors inio a semi-musical of Ferenc Molnar’s ‘Liliom’. Magnificent and unforgettable as ‘Liliom’ was, it sadly heralded the sad farewell to the DramSoc of Irangani and the cradle of her amazing theatrical career.
Interestingly, Jubal and Ludowyk boldly attempted to produce a play in Sinhalese in collaboration with Professor Sarachchandra. It was Gorky’s ‘Lower Depths’ and the producers boldly cast Irangani in her very first role in Sinhala theatre. Few would imagine that this was the beginning of her stellar career in Sinhala drama.
Hail to our Queen of Drama!