A play in five acts derived and adapted from LEONARD WOOLF’S novel THE VILLAGE IN THE JUNGLE.
SILUNDU OF BADDEGAMA, by Ernest Macintyre, was first performed at the Erindale Theatre Canberra on 16 April 1994
The play, as adapted from Woolf’s novel foreshadows, by suggestion, the post- independence class relationships in Ceylon and Sri Lanka.
Beginning with the drama of the known situations in the novel, the play moves on at the end to extrapolation, by projecting the experiences in the novel to suggest what is yet to come in Ceylon and Sri Lanka. This is conjectural, in the mind of the fictional character in the play, Andrew Millington, who in 1911 is about to relinquish his post as Assistant Government Agent, Hambantota, to give up imperial service and return to England. The content of the “extrapolation” is suggested from the actual post independence history of Ceylon and Sri Lanka, particularly the killing of many thousands of village youths who were in armed revolt in 1971 and a decade later .
The “extrapolation” from The Village in the Jungle had to be done by replacing Leonard Woolf with a fictional character, Millington. The playwright could not invest Leonard Woolf with thoughts, feelings and actions which are fictional in the sense outlined above. However, the reader or an audience in the theatre may judge whether such thoughts, feelings and actions could belong to Woolf himself. We note what E.F.C. Ludowyk in his introduction to Woolf’s novel says. “It is, however, as relevant today as when it first appeared in 1913. It should be better known, for, though villages like Baddegama may no longer exist, its author shows a classic level of understanding of the human situation to be met in shanty towns, ghettoes, labour and refugee camps, and other places where the rejects of society are concentrated.” — Oxford University Press, Delhi, 2007.
The fiction project required two fictional characters replacing Woolf. The other is Burton the predecessor of Millington as AGA Hambantota. It was Burton who began a novel about a jungle village in Hambantota and left it unfinished, to return to England to join in the life of the Labour Party. It is Millington who completes this novel. The personality of Woolf is combined in Burton and Millington.
EXTRACT FROM TOWARDS THE END OF THE PLAY
WICKREMANAYAKE = (distractedly) He said that in the jungle he had met a holy Buddhist man, who had an influence…..
Millington notices that Wickremanayake is unable to continue.
MILLINGTON = Is anything…….
WICKREMANAYAKE = It… When you went in just now…. I had a look at Silindu…… and….. he is dead……
Silence and a progression of reactions from Millington. He moves up to Silindu’s body, lowers himself, and examines it. He rises. A further progression of reactions. He sits, first looking at the body from the distance, then looking down at the table. He rises. Millington’s lines that follow, are at a highly charged and accusatory pitch.
MILLINGTON = The sergeant said he was alright when I asked him.
WICKREMANAYAKE = He may not have known……
MILLINGTON = “He may not have known”, what?
Wickremanayake is not quite able to say anything. He speaks after a while.
WICKREMANAYAKE = That he may have been badly injured.
MILLINGTON = When? Where?
Again, Wickremanayake is unable to speak, easily.
Was he in police custody at any time after he surrendered?
WICKREMANAYAKE = No……
He then looks at Millington for a while…..