The annual showcase of Asian pantomime returns after a four-year hiatus
MOST OF us have friends we haven’t seen for so long that we doubt we’ll ever get to meet them again. That’s a sentiment that also applies to a group of pantomime artists, mostly from Japan, whose multiple talents we haven’t witnessed since a few months after the coup d’etat.
It really was that long ago and the programme leaflet of the “15th Pantomime in Bangkok” also had words of condolence to two artists who had passed away in the meantime, namely Japan’s Honda Aiya and our own Paitoon “Kon Na Khao” Laisakul.
Chuusan and Salva paid tribute to Charlie Chaplin in “Panto Manga Neo”: Photo/Get Live Management
But return they did and the show opened last week at the Aksra Theatre, on top of a duty free shopping mall hugely popular with Chinese tourists, with a grand scene in which the audience was treated to the shadows of many of the participating artists. The short prologue ended with two of our most recognisable old friends, pantomime artist Hatori Hisayo and accordion accompanist Ota Yumiko collectively known as Guri Guri Girls who, as usual, introduced each scene title, this time with the help of Korean colleague Ryu Sung Gook aka Empty Hands.
Yano Kazuki kicked off the show with “Going Home”. Photo/Get Live Management
Japanese expat Yano Kazuki kicked off the first part of the programme with his melancholic “Going Home”. Female artist Inagaki Kahoru followed up with “Firework”, portraying a young girl who gets lost at a fair that ends with fireworks. New duo Ayukoji then took the stage with a double bill comprising “The Needle” and “Japanese Pop Idol”. Japanese master Kojimaya Mansuke, who used to pair with the late Honda Aiya, has a new partner Ayumi, who is young enough to be his daughter but whose skills matched his every move. The characterization work in both relatable and hilarious scenes was also commendable. The first part finished with a few scenes by Thailand’s only professional pantomime troupe Babymime and drew much laughter. Their history with “Pantomime in Bangkok” started as audience members but now they are rubbing shoulders with their Japanese seniors, thanks in part to their late teacher Kon Na Khao.
Inagaki Kahoru got lost at a fair in “Firework”. Photo/Get Live Management
During the 20-minute intermission, some audience members seated in the side sections moved to the empty seats in the centre, having realised that the performance space of most scenes wasn’t filling the entire width of the stage and they’d been watching the show from somewhat odd angles.
It was a wise decision as the second part’s opener by Panto Manga Neo was a visual treat, with artists Chuusan and Salva paying tribute to the last century’s greatest silent comedian Charlie Chaplin. The combination of costume design and make-up as well as lighting enhanced their physical skills effectively too.
Ayukoji performs “Japanese Pop Idol”. Photo/Get Live Management
They were followed by Empty Hands, whose two scenes “Picture” and “Adult” asked the audience to exercise more imagination and proved that Japanese pantomime is not all about comedy. The final act “Chairs” by Yamamoto Koyo was not a big bang but showed his skills in single-handedly portraying various characters with the help of seven different styles of chairs.
In the end, the combination of familiar faces and new ones as well as the comedy and the drama worked well. Most of those who attended the Saturday evening performance didn’t feel that they missed out on the concurrent first half of a FIFA World Cup quarterfinal, and are now looking forward to the 16th edition of “Pantomime in Bangkok”, hopefully next year in a more intimate venue.
Silent Comedy Soon
“BBM48 Babymime Show” is at K-Bank Siam Pic-Ganesha Centre of Performing Arts, on the 7th floor of Siam Square One, on August 11-13 and 18-19, at 11am and 5pm. The trio will be joined by a special guest pop singer Praew Kanitkul.
Tickets are Bt 800, at 088-867-5241. For more information, www.facebook.com/SiamPicLive
Keep track of the next Pantomime in Bangkok at Facebook.com/PantomimeIn|Bangkok