Oliver Swaris’ endeavours to promote Shakespeare in schools has been well supported the years
The boys’ and girls’ finals of the 45th Inter-school Shakespeare competition will conclude on September 29 (Today) at Bishops College Auditorium. The competition is organised by the Rotary Club of Colombo North and the Colombo YMCA.
It is appropriate at this juncture to dig into the inception of this prestigious inter-school competition, initially held in 1951. In a felicitation penned by Attorney-at-Law Allen Wijeyekoon for the Inter-school Shakespeare Drama Competition, held on 12.06.1993, the writer says that the competition was the brainchild of Mr. Oliver Swaris of the Ceylon Thespians. He explains that it was a time when students were bored with Shakespeare while studying the prescribed text from the standpoint of the examination only. He adds that the introduction of the competition was a move to remove the play from the classroom and move it to the stage thus capturing the students’ love for both drama and Shakespeare. The education authorities thereafter did away with Shakespeare from the school curriculum, but the danger to Shakespeare’s memory was averted with Mr. Oliver Swaris’ proposal for a Shakespeare Competition which the Thespians conducted from 1951 onwards with Mr. Oliver Swaris as the Secretary.
The education authorities thereafter did away with Shakespeare from the school curriculum, but the danger to Shakespeare’s memory was averted with Mr. Oliver Swaris’ proposal for a Shakespeare Competition
But alas due to unforeseen circumstances the Thespians themselves could not continue with the competition for long and it went into abeyance until in 1973 the Colombo North Rotarians and the Y.M.C.A, led by Mr. Harold Peiris, and Mr. Alagan Kadiragamer, revived the competition with Mr. Oliver Swaris representing the Ceylon Thespians and editing the souvenir from 1979 onwards generously ensuring a complimentary copy of the souvenir to every member of the audience. Later Mr. Ariya Wickrama improved on the design of the souvenir in 1991 and 1992. In addition during that period Mr. Olive Swaris continued with the sponsoring of the competition for many years as drama had always taken first place in his life. To quote Ambassador Neville Kanakaratne “His dedication to Shakespearean drama is worthy of the cause and the cause itself merits the unstinted support if all those who are committed to our country’s national well-being.”
Mr. Oliver Swaris had himself played the role of Ferdinand in the Tempest on the Thespian stage
Mr. Oliver Swaris had himself played the role of Ferdinand in the Tempest on the Thespian stage having taken time off during his student days for elocution under Rev. Edirisinghe and for ballroom dancing under Frank Harrison. He won many awards in both. He was a popular figure at social functions where his histrionic talents were greatly appreciated, the highlights being his singing and acting as Maurice Chevalier and his characterisation of Adolf Hitler and his classic performance as Dracula. He was a lawyer by profession having being admitted in 1950 as a solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and a member of the Company Law Commission on Business Names. His endeavours in promoting Shakespeare in schools were supported by his brothers Capt. J.H.B. Swaris, J.G.L.Swaris and J.B.C. Swaris, the latter two who adorned the bench in this country.