photo by Xie Ren Jay
photo by Xie Ren Jay

Making a bigger Splash

Art September 12, 2017 01:00


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The young theatre troupe stages its most ambitious work to date

With almost three quarters of 2017 now behind us, I know I wouldn’t be the only person voting for Splashing Theatre Company to be given the “theatre troupe of the year” award if such a prize existed. This is not based solely on the company’s diligence, though. Its latest work “Teenage Wasteland: Summer, Star and the (Lost) Chrysanthemum”, which ended its two-week run at Creative Industries on Sunday, was its third production of the year after “Thou Shalt Sing” at Crescent Moon Space and “Chrono o’ Clock” at Syrup the Space

Many other theatre companies, whose core members are much older than those of Splashing Theatre, rely on certain formulae in creating works, claiming that they don’t want to disappoint their fans. By contrast, Splashing Theatre, which already proved by inviting its peers from other groups to create new works for “Chrono o’ Clock”, that it’s not easily satisfied and more than willing to take artistic risks.

Like the troupe’s previous works, “Teenage Wasteland” had a film-like episodic structure and was inspired by and adapted from works in other media – namely Stephen King’s “It” and “The Body” and Japanese manga “Mobile Suit Gundum” and “Neon Genesis Evangelion”. That said, the story focused mainly on the life and work of the late writer and political activist Chit Phumisak. 

Thanaphon Accawatanyu’s script ambitiously switched back and forth between a galactic war in the far future, real-life incidents in Chit’s past and the making of a film documentary about him in the present. And while the former seemed somewhat distant from the other two at first, the audience soon realised that conflicts would always remain but that this should never prevent us from promoting differences. In short, reconciliation was not a keyword here.

The troupe’s largest production to date, the 14-member cast comprised not only Splashing members but also their peers from other groups plus such seasoned thespians as Sumontha Suanpholrat and Passakorn Intoo-marn. And herein lay a slight setback. More familiar with a smaller venue and highly naturalistic style of acting, Splashing Theatre members were upstaged by the others. The two directors Thongchai Pimapansri and Thanaphon himself were probably so busy with honing the script and putting other production elements together that they didn’t have time to balance the acting styles.

I was informed at the box office that the play would run for more than two hours without an intermission. A dash to a nearby cafe took care of my tiredness from driving through evening traffic but it wasn’t the caffeine that kept me awake and alert. Credit for that must go to the script, acting and direction, as well as the art direction by Sompak Ounthapan, who clearly knew how to work efficiently and elegantly with limited means in a small space. Tawit Keitprapai’s lighting design also helped differentiate the three main storylines. 

Driving home that evening, I thought about a current piece of hot news concerning a young political activist university student and what eventually happened to Chit more than half a century ago. Evidently, our understanding and respect for freedom of speech in this long build-up to democracy hasn’t really progressed much. 

In the meantime, the word is that a post-graduate student on the same campus is working on his thesis production, a musical adaptation of Chit’s life and works. Fingers are being crossed in the hope that the work will be presented to the public without censorship from any authority.

The audience is now looking forward to what Splashing Theatre Company will be offering for the upcoming Bangkok Theatre Festival this November. And while on some campuses in this supposedly democratic country, “tradition” is being used to rob young minds of freedom of speech, nothing seems to be holding these young artists’ down.

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