After almost two years, playwright, director and actor Nophand Boonyai is back on stage
When I compiled the list of the 10 best stage works of the 2000s, Nophand Boonyai’s “Sunflower” was high on the list. But after two critically acclaimed works in 2014, namely “Utopian Malady” and “The Cult of Monte Cristo”, contemporary Thai theatre has been missing his unique views on life and genuine dark humour.
“I’ve been doing nothing – nothing theatrical anyway,” says Nophand.
“I’ve written a TV soap opera script, a really mind-opening experience, but other than that I’ve been just travelling, lazing about and raising a Boston terrier.”
Now, though, the wait is over and his new work “Happy New Year, Mr. Smith” premieres this Thursday, with a stellar cast, himself included. It’s described as a contemporary dark comedy on the lives of Bangkokians at a time when competition is not with others but with oneself and when success is not an option. Three characters in their late-30s are at the core – one doesn’t want to get married, another is divorced and the last one is a celebrity. The play has a catchy hashtag: “#40isthenew30”.
“I guess everything needs to come with a tagline nowadays; otherwise it creates some kind of alienation. It’s based on a long series of life events and people I know. Most of these events are not my own: my life isn’t all that interesting. The character I play, though, definitely resonates from my experience. No one could play this character: I don’t want to hide it behind someone else, and also I really want to get my acting back on track.”
He elaborates on the plot, saying: “These three people are getting older but their lives are not going anywhere. Then, they see this older guy across the building – he’s alone but kind of happy. They’re reflecting on one another like the ‘me before’ and the ‘me after’, but the sad thing is that whether before or after they’ll always have the tendency to make the wrong choices.”
Completing the trio are two seasoned thespians who have worked with Nophand before – Suphasawatt “Watt” Purnaveja and Pattarasuda “Bua” Anuman Rajadhon, of whom Nophand speaks highly.
“I think he’s one of the best actors around and the number of them is decreasing – there are not many new people. But I think he could do so much more if he stopped playing the comedic roles into which he’s been pigeon-holed. And for Bua, well, you can’t find that kind of presence and prestige just anywhere and I think she takes the job seriously too, and so I really respect that. Acting is about being honest to the role and I think that’s what I admire the most about them.”
That “older guy across the building” is being portrayed by playwright, director and actor Nikorn Saetang, a Silpathorn artist, and Nophand has learned a lot from this experience.
“There’s a big gap in experience; Nikorn has already been there and done that. He was supposed to have a small part as a guest actor, but after the third rewrite he became the heart of story but the poster had already been designed. So I was thinking, ‘Let’s see where we can take this story and also how this story can reflect on our acting capabilities’. So a reshoot had to be set up and from that point the story of Mr. Smith, a nickname we gave him from peeping on him, finally had a heartbeat.”
“The play was hard to write. I kept going back and tearing it up because I wrote what I was inclined to write, what I was used to. As a writer, that’s the hardest part.”
Nophand’s previous works have been staged either at Democrazy Theatre Studio or Crescent Moon Space but this new one is a venue new to him – K-Bank Siam Pic-Ganesha Centre of Performing Arts’ studio.
“They kind of invited me a while ago: they wanted artists to use the venue to keep the art form going, after all it is a theatre, so I thought why not? My life has changed so much in the past year or so. Today’s it’s all about how you should venture out of your comfort zone, so I came out, way, way out from everything that I was used to.”
- “Happy New Year, Mr. Smith” is from Thursday to October 18, except Wednesday and Thursday, 8pm at The Studio, K-Bank Siam Pic-Ganesha Centre of Performing Arts, Siam Square One (BTS Siam, Exit 4).
- It’s in Thai, no English surtitles.
- Tickets in the first week are Bt600, second Bt650, and last Bt700 (Bt 450 for students).
- Call (081) 852 1641 now.