Maname is incontestably the greatest landmark in the history of modern sinhalese theatre. Highly acclaimed by critics and enthusiastically received by audiences throughout Sri Lanka
and the world, Maname first staged on November 3 rd 1956 at the Lionel Wendt Theatre, Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Maname gave modern Sri Lankan theatre resurgence and provided a cue for the discovery of the roots of Asian theatre. It was an outstanding combination of theatrical craft, poetic sophistication and dramatic concentration in which the essential elements in the folk theatre tradition were adapted to the modern stage.
Maname is based on the well-known Buddhist story belonging to the Jataka stories (Birth stories of Buddha) known as the Chulla Dhanuddara Jatakaya.
When creating Maname the author has acknowledged that his extensive knowledge of the ancient theatre traditions in India
such as `therukkuththu` and `yaksa gana` the `noh` and kabuki` theatres of Japan
, the Peking opera in China as well as the unsophisticated folk drama style of the traditional `nadagama` of Sri Lanka has immensely helped him. When Sarachchandra came into contact with these living theatres in the Far East, which had survived, from the past, he was able to recreate a national theatre form which had gone into abeyance in South Asia due to the vicissitudes faced during long periods of foreign rule.
A significant feature of Sarachchandra`s contribution to the national cultural history of Sri Lanka was the leadership he gave in defining the place of tradition. He was not for blind imitation or for the mere revival of tradition. He utilized tradition to create new works of art. In Maname he preserved the basic form of the nadagama but refined it to suit the needs of the modern theatre. The operatic character, the song and dance, the narrator, and the stylized tradition remain their use however is different. Sarachchandra`s purpose is essentially dramatic. He combined the new with the old, the traditional with the modern, the sophisticated with the simple to achieve a brilliant blend that proved to be a trail blazer in addition to being very fine theatre.
Maname has not only stood the test of time but also profoundly influenced the course of Sinhalese theatre. It could indeed be said that without Maname Sinhalese theatre would not have progressed the way it has. Maname occupies a unique place in the annals of Sinhalese drama. No other play has generated so much critical discussion, inspired so many playwrights or produced so many imitators. It is invoked as no other play is, as the touchstone of dramatic excellence. Its popularity remains undiminished to this day.