Bad handling bruised the opening night but “
Delicious and easy to digest, the banana is the perfect symbol for the contemporary performing arts being staged at the new festival organized by the Ministry of Culture’s Office of Contemporary Art and Culture (OCAC). But anyone who got an early taste of “
In the official schedule, the opening ceremony for this outdoor evening showcase of contemporary dance, film, music, and theatre as well as visual arts was billed to take place Thursday before last (April 30) at 6:30pm, and three performances commencing at 7pm, all at Parc Paragon, the outdoors area between Siam Center and Siam Paragon shopping centers. In the real world, things went differently.
Arriving at 6:20pm, The Nation photographer and myself found the area blocked off. At 7pm, I called my Bangkok Post colleague and discovered that the performances—held indoors at the Hall of Mirrors, not at Parc Paragon, and by-invitation-only—had already finished. “I didn’t get much of a view either,” she said. “They seated us at the back and the stage was too low to see anything.”
And so, my first nibble at “Bananas!!” turned out to be a chance to browse through the new collections of men’s clothing on sale (a coincidence?) in the mall.
Meanwhile, Pichet Klunchuen’s brand-new dance performance “All About Bananas”; Rajanikara Kaewdee’s acrobatic performance “No Leg”; and Zon Daoratanahong and Thanapol Virulhakul’s “Soi Sang Dang” had already happened behind closed doors. None have yet been scheduled for public consumption.
Twenty-four hours later, however, the banana’s black bits were replaced by a tasty restaging of “Eclipse” by Patravadi Theatre—who skillfully curates the dance and theatre programs at the festival. Inspired by tales about this celestial phenomenon, the drumming and dance show, created in late 2004 by Silpathorn Award artist Manop Meejamrat with a Buddhist slant captivated the audience with its originality and verve.
Also noteworthy was the moment when Manop walked up Super Normal’s installation art “House and Tree”. This example of interaction across disciplines of arts ignited our hope for more interdisciplinary collaborations among our artists.
Before “Eclipse” got underway, Patravadi Mejudhon, the grand dame of Thai performing arts, gave us a leisurely explanation of the piece without ever sounding like she was giving a lecture.
On Saturday evening (May 2), Patravadi Theatre revived another production “Angel Devi(l)”, created and performed in 2000 by Pintip Satpretpry, Mayuree Issarasena na
Capping off last weekend was Sunday’s (May 3) showcase of various styles of puppetry, ranging from kids’ favourite Chao Khun Thong to the award-winning troupes Sema Thai Marionette and
All in all, the public were served up a mix of the traditional and the modern, the local and the foreign—the tasty fruit salad that is contemporary arts. Also, there were some foreign tourists in the crowd, and they stayed through “Eclipse”, thanks to its universal language of dance and music and the bilingual narration. One question that remains is whether or not people will know where to find these performances once the festival ends.
On the downside, nobody thought to turn off Parc Paragon’s three advertising LCD screens above the stage, meaning the performances has to compete with movie trailers, music videos, and commercials. In addition, after providing dozens of comfortable chairs for the audience on Saturday night, the shopping centre stopped the good host a day later. Instead, Patravadi Theatre brought over wooden benches all the way from their Thonburi home.
I was left wondering whether the shopping mall’s only interest in co-hosting this event was to lure more customers.
Others who could have shown more dedication were the young festival staff, most of them neither looked nor sounded enthusiastic about the event, unlike their counterparts at other cities’ festivals.
When I picked up a brochure on the art installations from a kiosk on BTS Skywalk, the two young men in black T-shirts with banana-yellow logo didn’t say a word. I later found the full programme at a kiosk at the entrance to BACC. “This is our last one, by the way,” was all the young lady had to say. I didn’t think it was worth asking for additional details or their recommendations.
“Bangkok Bananas” continues until Sunday, May 10. For more details, www.Bangkok-Bananas.blogspot.com.
written by Pawit Mahasarinand
published in The Nation on Saturday, May 9, 2009
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