Writer/Performer Ahash Francis summons the spirit of revolution through a compelling young leader in his one person show, My Name is Thileepan at the Hollywood Fringe Festival.
Sri Lanka, 1987. Civil war has just broken out and Thiyagi Thileepan, 23 year old revolutionary leader of the Tamil Tigers, lives and dies by his convictions. When 5 demands he proposed on behalf of the Tamil people are not acknowledged by the Indian government, Thileepan stages a hunger strike in non-violent protest.
Thileepan is Francis’ personal hero and his admiration and respect for him is palpable throughout, as is his love for Sri Lanka and the Eelam Tamil people. Francis establishes a personal connection with the audience by entering the space as himself, summoning the spirit of Thileepan through dance. Thileepan arrives reluctantly; skeptical of a place like Hollywood (fair), but agrees to allow Francis to help him tell his story.
Francis is in constant conversation with Thileepan, questioning him about his life and convictions, encouraging him to tell his story. Francis moves between personas well enough but the shifts get frantic at times, losing clarity. Francis is most vibrant and connected to the story through movement and dance sequences. There’s depth and nuance to be mined in Francis’ embodiment of Thileepan in moments of weakness and physical deterioration. Set, sound and costumes are bright and lively, functional and thoughtful.
Thiyagi Thileepan died in the early days of revolution. Sri Lanka endured 36 years of violence until the Tamil Tigers surrendered in 2009 after genocide killed over 80,000 Tamils, another 200,000 Tamils still unaccounted for. There are over a million refugees worldwide. But Thileepan’s legacy endures. He held true to his morals, sacrificing his life for the freedom of his people, an incredible act of loyalty and courage. My Name is Thileepan has much potential and plenty of room for further exploration and it’s certainly a story worth being told.