Fewer words, many more visuals

Art July 17, 2017 01:00

By PAWIT MAHASARINAND
SPECIAL TO THE NATION

Back from Taipei, a new revival of "La Maladie de L'Amour" is more multi-disciplinary



WHEN IT PREMIERED two years ago, actor and French literature professor Banthun Ratmanee’s script “An Epilogue to ‘The Malady of Death’”, adapted from Marguerite Duras’s 1982 novella “La maladie de la mort”, struck the right chord with critics, albeit not so much with the audience, and was nominated for an IATC Thailand Award. 

Its revival has been through many changes and much development, as evidenced by the new title “La maladie de l’amour: Detoxification of a Heart”. 

Director and scenographer Wasurat “Leon” Unaprom says: “Like the 2015 version, this performance is a deconstruction of ‘The Malady of Death’, which Duras suggested could be performed as a play, and indeed has been staged in many countries around the world.”

“We’re still focusing on Duras’s relationship with her muse Yann Andrea, who actually wrote ‘The Malady of Death’, as Duras, who by then was incapable of writing, recited the lines. I came to realise that I’m more interested in Andrea, his homosexuality and the fact that, overwhelmed by Duras’s influence, his writing career never took off as people only wanted to read about his relationship with Duras,” Wasurat says.

“We also did more research on the boy who was mentioned in ‘The Malady of Death’. It seems Duras was hired by a newspaper about this time to cover the murder of a seven-year-old boy by his own mother. But instead of interviewing people or reporting the facts, she wrote entirely from her imagination and even took the side of the mother, portraying her as a victim of the society who needed to sleep with a man she didn’t really love. In ‘The Malady of Death’, |there’s a hint that Andrea himself wanted to kill Duras while she was asleep.”

With these new focuses, Leon had the accompanying installation artwork created even before Banthun finished revising the script. “As the audience walks into the studio on the third floor, they’ll see a typewriter with a long roll of paper filling the entire room. They’ll have to find a way through it to get to their seats.” 

Only two actors perform in this revival–Banthun himself and Japanese actress Yuka Ehara. Leon adds, “They’ll speak Thai, French and Japanese and if there are English-speakers in the audience, they can switch to English. I think that, for this performance, spoken language is not the most important tool in communicating with the audience. 

Also, I’d like to show how Duras’s words sound in different languages as they’ve been translated into many.”

Leon also notes that Duras’s words only make up 30 per cent of the script. The rest are Banthun’s and, in any case, the visual elements are more important.

“We’ve also added a prologue, a meeting of all the production crew and Banthun before the performance at the cafe on the second floor. This is where the audience, if they arrive early, can also read the programme leaflet, which includes an article on the relationship between Duras and Andrea, more information on the murder case and the original version of this performance. From the previews, it’s evident that the audience understood and enjoyed the performance better. On the other hand, a few complained that these additions framed the way they thought and blocked their imagination.” 

Earlier this month, “La maladie de l’amour: Detoxicification of a Heart” was invited to Scenofest, as part of the World Stage Design Festival at Taipei National University of Arts (TNUA), and the response was positive.

“Tickets were sold out before we even arrived in Taipei and we needed to add seats to all three performances. Audiences enjoyed especially the scenography and other design elements; some also liked the prologue scene. 

“I think this is partly because the audience there, unlike here, is already familiar with this kind of performance, rather than the conventional theatre, and contemporary arts from around the world, and the environment of the World Stage Design Festival itself also helped a lot.”

 - “La maladie de l’amour: Detoxicification of a Heart” is at Thong Lor Art Space (three-minute walk from BTS Thong Lor station, exit 3) on Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 4pm, and on July 28-29 at 8pm and July 30 at 4pm.

- It’s in French, Japanese and Thai. Tickets are Bt550 (Bt450 for True and CP Privilege Price customers). 

- Find out more at Facebook.com /ThongLorArtSpace.