The director (Thanee Poonsuwan, right) discusses how theatre works with his struggling actor (Shogo Tanikawa, left) /PHOTO: NAPHATRAPEE SUNTORNTIRNAN
The director (Thanee Poonsuwan, right) discusses how theatre works with his struggling actor (Shogo Tanikawa, left) /PHOTO: NAPHATRAPEE SUNTORNTIRNAN

What were you doing on October 13?

Art October 09, 2017 01:00

By Pawit Mahasarinand
Special to The Nation

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A restaged play captures the Thai public’s emotion on that day last year



THE LIVE and ephemeral nature of theatre means that no matter how hard the actors attempt to repeat their performance on different evenings, one will always different from the others. And as the artists and the audience share the space and time, whatever one does affect the other. 

In my three decades of theatergoing, I have experienced a number of “magic moments” and their effects last a long time afterwards – as does my memory of them. Thanks to Japanese-Thai actor-playwright-director Shogo Tanikawa’s “No Moon Night No Moon Day 2017”, which ended its run at Blue Box Studio last weekend, another has just been added to this list.

The director (Thanee Poonsuwan, right) discusses how theatre works with his struggling actor (Shogo Tanikawa, left).PHOTO: NAPHATRAPEE SUNTORNTIRNAN

The date was October 13, 2016, in the early evening. A new play was about to premiere, news arrived via smartphones and the director had to cancel the performance. An actor stood up and started singing the royal anthem – and the surtitle read exactly so – and the other three actors and the director joined him. 

My theatregoing companion suddenly turned to me, whispering, “Should we stand up?” And as our legs were moving, we saw two audience members in the second row already up. The house lights were not up, to prompt our participation, but all members of the audience that Saturday afternoon stood. It was a special moment more memorable than peculiar as it connected with our lives.

Three evenings later, I was attending the German Unity Day reception organised by the German embassy. Before the speech by the German ambassador, a minute of silence was called in remembrance of our late King and was followed by a choir’s singing of our royal anthem and the German national anthem. 

Kanokwan Intharaphat was the most subtle and the most effective.

The “No Moon Night No Moon Day 2017” effect was still strong and the singing exceptional: I found myself listening to and interpreting each word very carefully, as if I had never heard our royal anthem before. In recent years, I’ve heard people question why at such an event our royal anthem has replaced our national one. Also, I’ve witnessed more and more Thai people not standing up for the royal anthem in the cinema and more theatre performances without the royal anthem, all for various personal, artistic and political reasons. In this regard and in a country governed by a constitutional monarchy, “No Moon Night No Moon Day 2017” was clearly the opposite.

Actress (Nithiwadi Tanngamtrong) made special somtum for her director and fellow actors before the play.

That said, the two-hour-and-20-minute play, heartfelt as it was, could have been much shorter, had the director found time to vary its pace and tighten some pauses, which were more abundant than necessary and led to occasional boredom. That’s easier said than done, though, as his character was onstage almost the entire time, and to solve this Tanikawa might have had to ask another director to stage it. This director would also be able to help hone the acting styles to better fit this intimate theatre studio, with actor Kanokwan Intharaphat being more natural than the others ?.

Tanikawa’s signatures in playwriting and directing remained intact here. They ranged from placing emphasis on the surtitle screen making sure that the various nationalities in the audience could understand and enjoy his play in Thai, English and Japanese and that his character faced upstage in silence for a while to that his heavily accented Thai could be mocked by other characters. In another touching moment that was not at all political, this play, like his previous ones, was also partly auto-biographical as his character wasn’t ready to declare his love for a younger actress although he looked very ready.

Stages will go dark in the next few weeks out of respect for the late King and the government’s curb on entertainment, though the “tourist shows” are still on, business as usual. That doesn’t mean Thai theatre artists will stop working, though: the year’s biggest event will start exactly one week after the royal cremation.

 

A MAJOR FEST COMING SOON

“Bangkok Theatre Festival 2017: Sharing Moments” is from November 2 to 19 at Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC), Sodsai Pantoomkomol Centre for Dramatic Arts, Democrazy Theatre Studio and a few other venues.

A more international part, the inaugural “Bangkok International Performing Arts Meeting (BIPAM)” is from November 14 to 18.

For more details and tickets, visit www.BangkokTheatreFestival.com