B-Floor Theatre’s Ornanong Thaisriwong asks us to question, and take some action in, our paradise
I NEVER REALISED I was living in paradise until one December afternoon a few years ago when I got into an argument with a receptionist at a four-star hotel in a Middle-Eastern country. Having discovered that the refrigerator in my room was for mini-bar items only and needing to put the German sausages I had bought at Munich airport in a cool place, I asked him whether I could leave them in the hotel’s kitchen. He refused, citing “security reasons” – his young country is constantly at war and all young men and women have to serve in the army for two years. My only option was to rent the hotel’s mini-refrigerator for US$2 a day for my entire stay, and I took this option, even knowing that two days of rent was already more than the cost of the sausages. When I told him that I’m from Thailand and had never encountered this kind of problem in my frequent travels around the world, his answer was concise and quite startling: “You’re from paradise”.
The set, costume and character in "Sawan Arcade" are almost inseperable in the first part./Photo Teeraphan Ngowjeenanan
B-Floor Theatre’s Ornanong “Golf” Thaisriwong’s new solo performance “Sawan Arcade” not only brought that incident to mind but also questioned whether this “kitchen of the world” in which I live is actually paradise. With plenty of sunshine all year round and the weather so predictable that we don’t need to read the forecast every day – though most of us pray that our houses will not flood during the rainy season, – it’s easy to say that it seems like a tropical paradise. Even with the ongoing social, cultural and political problems, we keep smiling although, as I always tell my foreign friends, the world famous Siamese smile doesn’t always mean that we’re happy nor that we agree with what they are saying. And for all the troubles, we haven’t taken much action, the reason being that in this interim period, such action might be deemed illegal. Some people joke that NATO stands for “No Action, Talk Only”.
In Thailand’s case, a more appropriate acronym would be NAFO for “No Action, Facebook Only”.
The set, costume, lighting and sound design all played strong supporting roles in this work. Entering the studio to find a place to sit was already a unique experience although I found myself wishing that the performance had continued its experiential character and the audience was given the option of walk around the space, no matter how difficult that might be. Audience members wishing to see the work should consider following the production team’s suggestion to wear comfortable shoes – sneakers are best – and leave bags at the door.
Stripped of the fanciful and idealistic images, Golf brings the audience back to reality towards the end. /Photo Teeraphan Ngowjeenanan
Golf was full on, physically and mentally, for this riveting physical theatre work and all members of the audience will have now realised why the performance had to be postponed from Bangkok Theatre Festival last November when her hand was bitten by her dog. It’s the kind of performance that can be put on once a day only, as I don’t think she would have enough energy left to do anything else. Her character also changed convincingly, through both voice and physical movements, from one part to another.
The 2015 revival of Golf’s last solo performance “Bang Lamerd” was well attended and documented by representatives of the military junta – a piece of freedom-of-speech news that was so well covered by international media that all performances completely sold out making it B-Floor’s most profitable work ever.
By contrast, last Wednesday, I couldn’t spot any member of the audience who might have been an army representative. The studio was packed though –unusually for a mid-week show only two nights after opening – with spectators from many walks of life, foreign expats and tourists included.
In fact, the military junta need not worry about this work, the political commentary is even subtler than that of “Bang Lamerd” but, of course, in any work of contemporary art that invites its audience to interpret and to continue thinking, it’s important to have absolute freedom of imagination. When she spoke about the fact that many people love to come here, to eat and then leave, I don’t think she literally meant tourists who come here to enjoy CNN’s best food of the world namely massaman curry.
The first month of the year is only half over and we’ve already had a significant stage work. Contemporary Thai theatre in 2018 is promising indeed.
SEE YOU IN THEATRE PARADISE
B-Floor Theatre’s “Sawan Arcade” continues tonight and Wednesday to Saturday, 8pm, at Democrazy Theatre Studio.
Tickets are Bt550 (Bt480 for students), at (094) 494 5104 and BFloorTheatre@gmail.com.
Find out more at www.BFloorTheatre.com.