Bangkok Theatre Festival 2009: Thailand’s Gifts to Tokyo
Smaller in scale but still top quality, the year’s largest display of contemporary Thai theatre is ongoing, city-wide.
"In keeping with this year's theme, 'Lakorn Thai Unlimited', we want to focus on the real variety in Thai theatre," says New Theatre Society's Parnrut Kritchanchai, one of the producers of Bangkok Theatre Festival 2009 (BTF09).
"The genres and styles may be the same as in previous years, but the way they're arranged for the Saturday and Sunday evenings will show the opposite extremes of Thai theatre."
That's the intention of artistic director Babymime, says Parnrut.
"Most of the presentations are premieres," Parnrut adds, "except for the guest artists' masterpieces.”
There will also be productions by the drama clubs of several universities, and "fringe-style" theatre inside the nearby restaurants like Hemlock and Sangkom Niyom.
"And," Parnrut says, "there are ticketed performances seven days a week at small theatre venues across the city, such as Makhampom Studio in Saphan Kwai, the Crescent Moon Space on Thonglor and Democrazy Theatre Studio in Bon Kai."
The economic slump has had an impact, she admits.
"It's been a very difficult year for us. The support - especially from our main sponsors, the government's offices of Thai Health Promotion and Contemporary Art and Culture - comes either late or reduced.
"Still, we've managed to mount a programme that will both entertain and inspire viewers. Other than the two Japan-bound productions, there's nothing startlingly new this year - we're just concentrating on what we have and doing our best."
Two Thai theatre productions have been invited to Festival/Tokyo—not the jukebox musicals Re Khai Fun and Lom Haichai, but Bangkok Theatre Network's Sao Chaona and Makhampom's Yak Tua Dang.
And you can see them here first as part of the ongoing Bangkok Theatre Festival 2009.
Twelve years ago, Japanese playwright and director Hideki Noda was invited by the Japan Foundation Bangkok to stage his Akaoni (also known as Red Demon and Yak Tua Dang) here in Thai with Thai actors from various groups. The bonds they formed led to the creation of the Bangkok Theatre Network (BTN).
A few years later, led by Makhampom's Pradit Prasartthong, they launched the Bangkok Theatre Festival. And Noda is now artistic director of the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Space, where both plays will be performed as part of Festival/Tokyo.
Bhussadee Navavichit translated Noda's Nokyo Shojyo into Sao Chaona (Girl of the Soil), which 8X8 Theatre's Nikorn Saetang is directing.
"It shows both the positive and negative sides of mass psychology," Noda says, contrasting the group conscience fostered beneficially by the mass media with the loss of cultural identity that's a by-product.
In the adapted version, a 15-year-old Thai girl flees the rice paddy for
"Noda masterfully blends the search for one's true self into the subject of mass psychology," says Nikorn. "Thais are easily influenced by foreign cultures, and we always follow our leaders faithfully."
Meanwhile Pradit Prasartthong is presenting the highly symbolic and philosophical Yak Tua Dang as likay, an entertaining form of folk theatre.
"We've changed the locale to an island in southern
"Demons exist in a world where we often regard unfamiliar people as 'the others'. Hopefully this likay will inspire viewers to reconsider and think of all other people as fellow humans."
“Bangkok Theatre Festival
Sao Chaona is at the Thailand Cultural Centre’s Small Hall on Tuesday, November 3 at 7:30pm and on Wednesday, November 4 at 2pm and 7:30pm. Yak Tua Dang is at the Jim Thompson House from November 1 to 8 at 7:30pm,
Then both will be staged from November 20 to 23 at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Space, in Thai with Japanese translation through earphones.
written by Pawit Mahasarinand
published in DAILY XPRESS on October 16 and 22, 2009
photos courtesy of Bangkok Theatre Network
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