Three winter's tales
Small Thai theatre troupes close out the year with thought-provoking and entertaining shows
Published on December 20, 2007
Three different theatrical events last weekend proved that contemporary Thai theatre remains a sizzling scene, even in the cool season.
With all the holidays and auspicious occasions, December is a festive month, and an evening out for many people tends to mean hanging out at beer gardens or watching end of year blockbuster movies. Yet, after the prolific month of November, highlighted by the Bangkok Theatre Festival, Thai playmakers are still highly active and the fact that many theatre enthusiasts, myself included, didn't have time to stay home and watch TV over the weekend is a testament to their efforts.
Makhampom Studio at the Saphan Kwai Intersection proved again that, despite its name, this fringe venue is open to all companies and all kinds of theatre (even other disciplines), playing host to the debut production of a new troupe.
AA Theatre's engaging drama of modern relationships, "A Christmas Story", was written, directed and produced by Japanese-born and Thai-bred thespian Shoko Tanikawa, who also filled the starring role.
At a park on Christmas Eve, a mysterious Japanese man named Santa Claus (Shoko), wearing Santa's red cloak in one scene and a reindeer suit in the other, waits for a woman named Marilyn Monroe who he met on what he calls the "interneto". Instead, he runs into a streetwalker named Eri (Theatre 69's Sasithorn Panichnok in a stunning performance), and a gay man (Makhampom's Phayap Kaewkred, who was totally convincing playing a homosexual), both of whom offer him a "Christmas Sale", though he's not buying. He also hooks up with a pizza delivery man (Makhampom's Surachai Midam) who wants to quit his lowly job.
In the end, the four characters form a unique bond - in a way, a reflection of how well these four actors from different groups and backgrounds mesh in this small but memorable production. The 50-minute play was performed with complete English and Japanese surtitles, thus broadening the target audience.
Dream Box is finishing 2007 with a revival of teen comedy "Wai Afraid". Although playwright Daraka Wongsiri wrote this four-act play more than a decade ago, the conflicts between the old and young generations are still just as relevant today. Daraka has subtly adjusted the dialogue here and there, and the colourful production and costume designs as well as Suwandee Jakravoravudh's skilful direction of comedy also contribute a great deal to this show's success.
Atcharaphan Phaibunsuwan as a onetime TV star who's now a remote-island resort owner, and Yanee Tramote as the resort's sole employee proved that they are two of the best stage actors working today, and it looks as if they're improving all the time with age. Their vivid characterisation, clear enunciation, and strong energy evident throughout the two hours added much entertainment to the thought-provoking play.
The architecture student from Chulalongkorn University, Panupol "Joe AF 2" Ekpet stood out from the young cast members. His attention to detail in characterisation, diction and concentration added a great deal to his strong stage presence. Perhaps from now on he will be taken seriously as an actor, rather than merely a heartthrob singer. By contrast, the grumpy-looking long-haired film actor Thiwaradanai Laphitphak, portraying the classical music student turned wannabe rock musician, seemed to struggle with his lines, causing the pace of the comedy to falter on several occasions.
Lastly, at the Thailand Cultural Centre's Small Hall on Sunday evening, three high-school theatre troupes competed in the final round of the English Drama Competition 2007. After the preliminary round held at Patravadi Theatre earlier in the year, the young theatre makers had been given a few months under the watchful eye of Patravadi Mejudhon and her staff to rehearse and rework their 15-minute scenes from either Charles Dickens' "Oliver Twist" or Ann Cartwright's "Friends".
The result was an entertaining evening for the general public - made up mostly, of course, of the friends and families of those involved in the three productions. We witnessed these high school students energetically performing in a foreign language and in a medium they're not familiar with.
In the end, it was the troupe from Yothinburana School who with commendable teamwork, creativity in adaptation, and true understanding of stage acting - that they should concentrate more on one another than the audience - delivered an "Oliver Twist" that edged out the other two troupes from Surasakmontree and Samsen Wittayalai schools. The latter's high-octane presentation of "Friends" was somewhat overproduced and so stuffed with ideas that the original messages got lost in the extra characters and anecdotes.
Yet despite the considerable contribution of these three theatrical events to the development of contemporary Thai theatre, the general public has once again heard or read very little about them. This is probably because our mass media is still overwhelmed with the news of "Banlang Mek the Musical" at Muangthai Rachadalai Theatre.
"Wai Afraid" runs tomorrow through Sunday at the Bangkok Theatre at Metropolis (Big C Pratunam). Tickets are available at Thaiticketmajor.com. For more information, visit waiafraid.multiply.com.
Also performing tomorrow and Saturday is Naked Masks Group's modern Thai adaptation of "Hamlet" titled "When I Slept Over the Night of the Revolution" at the Art Gorillas Art Gallery (second floor of Lido Theatre, Siam Square). Admission is pay-what-you-can. For reservation and details, call (086) 722 1435.
The writer can be contacted at Pawit.M@chula.ac.th.