Deft acting and directing make a slightly dated drama relevant and engaging
DREAMBOX’S resident playwright Daraka Wongsiri is contemporary Thai theatre’s most prolific wordsmith and has been honoured for her contributions with IATC Thailand’s lifetime achievement award.
Spanning the genres of drama, comedy and musical as well as translation of foreign plays and musicals, her works have been studied and staged by many theatre students though not so frequently by other professional companies. Her 1998 domestic drama thriller “Kulap Si Luet” (“Crimson Rose”) is among the most popular. But while I have read it and seen student scene works of it, I had never watched a full professional production until last Thursday evening at Thong Lor Art Space.
Daraka Wongsiri’s “Crimson Rose” has challenging roles for female actors and this cast is up to it. Photo/Chutima Tatanan
Daraka noted that this is an actor’s play and award-winning director Pattarasuda Anuman Rajadhon got half of her job well done by casting the right female actors to portray these seven women characters.
The most natural of all was Thanyarat Praditthaen as Rose, the owner of the house in which the play is set. She never sounded like she had a troubling past and present and this subtlety had the strongest effect when secrets were later revealed. Also arresting was Varattha Tongyoo, as Fon, the millionaire politician’s daughter and a university student who’s renting a room in this house. The audience though is becoming tired of seeing her typecast in roles younger than her age and that require her to be the tearful victim, simply because she’s small and looks young.
Meanwhile, Thiptawan Uchai, as Rose’s mother seen in the flashback scenes, was believable as a matron despite her young looks and small stature.
The two newcomers blended in with the vetarans very well, and credit is also due to the director who set it at a pace that wasn’t too quick for the audience to follow nor too slow for us to glance at our watches. A recent graduate from Bangkok University’s performing arts department, Tanyapas Jinjantarawong’s portrayal of Salil, a drama-major university student who did everything to get away from her poor background, was marked by a strong stage presence that subtly stole spotlight from her seniors.
Young fashion model Rastprapa Wisuma made her professional stage debut as Seefah, a medical student, and she succeeded by acting as if there were no dark secrets in her life. This was in contrast to Nualpanod Nat Khianpukdee whose choice of characterisation for Duean reminded the audience too much of the female villains seen in Thai soaps and we knew right away something would later happen to her.
“Crimson Rose” was set in 198 7 – that pre-smartphone and pre-social media era when one could dig up secret pasts and hideous presents of others without looking through Facebook posts and Line messages. Set designer Konthorn Taecholarn and costume designer Ubonwan Moonganta respected the period, the former smartly blending his set into the existing structure of TLAS’s main studio making it look like the parts of the house where these characters lived while the latter kept her designs in line with the period.
Veteran lighting designer Supatra Kruekrongsuk kept most of the areas dark and most of her lighting changes were subtle. In short, the three didn’t try to do much but served the play’s purpose well. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for sound designers Rapeedech Kulabusaya and Peerasit Koosrivinij who at times forgot they were working for a realistic stage drama, not a TV one. When, for example, a character pointed a pistol at another early on in the play and the music was cued for it, the audience knew right away that it was a foreshadow of what was to come both with that character and that pistol.
Daraka’s frequent use of inner monologue, a direct address to the audience, by the protagonist-narrator Rose revealed a little too much information and as a result killed some of the suspense, especially these days when the audience is watching more plot twists and mystery in other media.
Otherwise, “Crimson Rose” is a solid character study and a clear reflection of Thai society as it was both then and unfortunately remains so today in this #MeToo era.
On the Skytrain back to retrieve my car from the office parking lot, I was wondering if I should consider having a sex change operation. For the first time in my life, I felt guilty at having been born a male, after seeing numerous wrongdoings the men had done in these women’s lives, although no male characters were even present on stage.
Positive thinking then kicked in and reminded me that we should make sure that such acts don’t occur again in our contemporary society, no matter how patriarchal it remains.
A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME
“Crimson Rose” continues every Thursday to Sunday until July 8 at Thong Lor Art Space (a three-minute walk from BTS Thong Lor, Exit 3). Show time is 8pm Thursday to Saturday and 4pm on Sunday.
It’s in Thai with professionally translated English surtitles.
Tickets are Bt650 (Bt600 for advance transfer) and Bt450 for students, at (095) 924 4555.
For more information, go to Facebook.com/ThongLorArtSpace.