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Last updated: 24 November, 2008 - Published 18:17 GMT
 
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BBC drama on Richard de Zoysa
 
Richard de Zoysa
Richard de Zoysa was abducted and killed in 1990
A radio play based on the life and death of murdered journalist Richard de Zoysa will be on BBC Radio4.

The drama was recorded entirely on location in Sri Lanka. Richard was killed in 1990 believed to be by a death squad.

In the early hours of February 18th 1990 a Sri Lankan government death squad abducted journalist and television newsreader Richard de Zoysa from his home in Colombo.

The next evening his body was washed ashore on Lunawa beach. He had been shot in the head. He had burn marks on his body. Richard was 32 at the time of his death.

Killed by death squads

Explaining how he became interested in Richard, Producer of the drama Roger Elsgood told Sandeshaya, "Richard de Zoysa was born into the upper echelons of Sri Lankan society, his father Singhalese, his mother Tamil. Richard's early life encompassed the worlds of film and theatre as both a writer and an actor".

Director Willi Richards listens to playback during recording in monsoon (photo: Roger Elsgood)
Director Willi Richards listens to playback during recording in monsoon

Richard was one of the first newsreaders on the state TV Rupavahini. Later he worked for IPS news agency as a journalist.

He was well known as an actor in English theatre circles and acted in several Sinhala films. Popular radio programme "left luggage" was also produced and presented by Richard.

"Richard was intelligent, handsome and articulate and a homosexual in a country where homosexuality remains unlawful. His charisma lit up every room he entered".

"Intellectually and politically he was a humanitarian liberal, rigorous with his socialist beliefs but never partisan to any party ideology" says Roger Elsgood.

Director Willi Richards centre white T shirt directs cast on Mt. Lavinia beach in monsoon (photo: Roger Elsgood)
Director Willi Richards centre white T shirt directs cast on Mt. Lavinia beach in monsoon

The Last Time I Saw Richard, a documentary drama about the life and death of Richard de Zoysa, is set during the years leading up to 1990 - a time when the Sri Lankan government led by President Ranasinghe Premadasa was undertaking a bloody crackdown of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna, the JVP.

Director Willi Richards and Producer Roger Elsgood went to Colombo in April to record testimony from those who knew and worked with Richard.

Sri Lankan cast

Instead of finding a relatively straightforward story they were told of complex and intimate matters many of which were entirely unknown to Richard's other friends and associates.

 Richard was intelligent, handsome and articulate - and a homosexual in a country where homosexuality remains unlawful. His charisma lit up every room he entered
 
Producer Roger Elsgood

They returned to Colombo in July to record the dramatic scenes they had written based on the testimonies and worked on location with a wholly Sri Lankan cast in Sinhala, Tamil and English.

Jehan Aloysius, Wassam Ismael, Tracy Holsinger, Sean Amarasekera, Nigel da Silva, Rohan Ponniah, Ruvin da Silva, Delon Weerasinghe, Subha Wijesiriwardena, Mahomed Adamally, Hiran Abeysekera acts in the production.

The drama also includes Testimonies by Rajiva Wijesinha, Ranmali Mirchandani, Kumar Mirchandani, Steve de la Zilwa, Ena de Silva Aluwihare, Jean Arasanayagam, Ruvanthi Sivapragasam, Sunethra Bandaranaike, Kollu, Nishanatha Dahanayaka, Prasanna Liyanage, Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, Neluka Silva, Maria De Almeida, Peter De Almeida and Richard Simon.

The Last Time I Saw Richard will be The Friday Play in BBC Radio4 on 28 November.

 
 
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