The Nation

THEATRE

CALIGULA WITH CAESAR SALAD

Dine like a Roman emperor and then compare notes with one, onstage at the All Soul Centre

The wondrous tale of the Roman emperor Caligula continues to unfold at the All Soul Cultural and Exhibition Centre off Sri Nakharin Road.Opened last December, the centre - a two-unit shophouse - is part antique store, part theatre school and part restaurant, as well as a playhouse. Finding it is easy: The map on its website is crystal clear.Italian director Maurizio Mistretta began presenting his modern adaptation of Albert Camus' "Caligula" in December with an episode titled "Khamoey! (Thieves! Ladri!)".I missed that but recently saw the reportedly less abstract Part 2 - "Som Nam Na! (You Deserve It! Te Lo Meriti!)". Part 3 opens in June.I warmed up for the show by sampling a few items from the wine dinner on offer. Both the Bruschetta tricolore and Farfalle al Salmone e Vodka were sumptuous - fine examples of Italian cuisine adjusted for Thais' spicier palates. Tummy happily filled, I was shown (by the cast, as it turned out) to a corner of the shophouse where a pair of sofas and 20 chairs defined the performance area. Curtains blocked out streetlights.There were four actors in the multinational cast: Mistretta, Chris Wegoda, Patchanee Poonthong and Robin Schroeter. Mistretta donned a gown to become the infamous emperor of ancient Rome, while the others remained in contemporary clothes.The play was quite entertaining, thanks in part to audience participation, but it was only 40 minutes long, so it couldn't be fully engaging. The plot made little progress, and the acting wasn't quite balanced, probably due to the performers' varying levels of experience. And, since the production was billed as "modern", I was expecting more stylistic experimentation, as well as dramatic relevance to modern times - especially since the historical Caligula was an insane tyrant. Language was another problem. The dialogue was mainly in English but we shifted among Italian, Thai and German, in accord with the actors' passports. So you might not be able to understand everything that's said, though you can guess what's going on.The whole experience was like enjoying dinner at the home of foreign friends and afterward watching them put on costumes to perform a brief play. "Som Nam Na!" was short, but clearly a work-in-progress, and you wish the troupe all the best in their further endeavours.The third episode, "Ba Pai Laew", opens in late June, and then the complete "Caligula" will be staged in early November at a larger venue and with a bigger cast. WORTH THE TREK- See "Som Nam Na! Caligula Reloaded" on April 23 at 9pm or any Saturday until May 28. - The All Soul Cultural and Exhibition Centre is on Sri Nakharin Soi 24, which is accessible via On Nut Soi 39. - You can take a taxi there from Hua Mark station on the Airport Link's City Line or from the Skytrain's On Nut station.- Tickets cost Bt400 (Bt250 for students) - Bt1,340 for the wine dinner and the show.- Visit www.All-Soul.org or call (02) 721 5625.

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