"Overture" for a new theatre

Art April 09, 2015 01:00

By PAWIT MAHASARINAND
SPECIAL TO

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Western music overwhelms its classical Thai counterpart in the ambitious "Hom Rong the Musical"



A JOINT VENTURE of television production company Workpoint Entertainment and KBank, a new performing arts centre named Kbank Siam Pic-Ganesha opened last week at the best location in Bangkok – you can simply walk from BTS Siam station into Siam Square One and take either the elevator or escalator up to the seventh floor.

In addition to the 1,066-seat proscenium theatre referred to as “the theatre”, there are two smaller flexible studio space – “the playhouse” and “the studio – as well as a cafe that’s open everyday and a view from the foyer of a colourful vegetable plant on the roof.

Inside the theatre, seats are comfortable with ample legroom and nicely raked so that all audience member have a clear view of the stage action. And with ushers who are both polite and attentive, and instantly walk towards anyone whose mobile phone emits either sound or light during the performance, I’m sure the centre will do well.

The curtain raiser, a musical adaptation of highly acclaimed Thai film “Hom Rong” (“The Overture”) was highly anticipated. Sadly though, Workpoint probably picked the wrong contestant to enter this new commercial theatre battle. Its subsidiary Toh Gloam, which is responsible for this production, is more renowned for its television shows, especially “The Voice Thailand”, while its track record in theatre, including the forgettable “Chai Klang” and the mediocre “Re Khai Fan”, has received mixed responses.

In adapting the screenplay for stage, writers Pimthai Lohitcupta and Teravat Anuvatudom, who also directs the show, seem to have forgotten that they are writing for stage and not the screen. The result is 20 scenes in the first act and 18 in the second, all of them so fast that they have little in the way of dramatic suspense. And with most scenes featuring only few lines of dialogues and occasionally a song, the play introduces various characters and themes only to leave them undeveloped.

Telling the story of ranad-ek virtuoso Sorn’s younger years and after he became a master in parallel is smart but hits problems as the audience can’t really understand the logic in the timing of the flashforwards or flashbacks.

The major flaw is probably how “Hom Rong” is eager to be “The Musical” in a Western sense with songs that will no doubt soon climb the pop music charts coming at the cost of classical Thai music. Western music introduces, interrupts and intervenes in many scenes when the classical Thai counterpart is supposed to be the star. This is ironic as the play itself asks whether we should look down upon our roots when we’re modernising, or westernising, ourselves. One exception is the final music battle between Sorn and Khun In, whose presence is much less than that in the movie.

The highlight of “Hom Rong” is the performance by National Artist Suprawat Pattamasoot who effortlessly portrays Sorn in his later days during World War II. The scene where he is visited by Lt-Colonel Veera, performed by Anusorn “Yong Armchair” Maneetes, shows a high contrast in acting styles – a veteran who simply lives the character and the dramatic moment and a singer who’s trying to act. It’s rare for any television, movie and theatre in this country to give such a meaty role to a senior artist so let’s give Toh Gloam due applause for this.

Kudos also for Kornkan Sutthikoses whose exceptional ranad-ek performance makes the lead character convincing, although he could be more comfortable when he delivers dialogue and songs. And like in many plays that have so many supporting characters, many good performers are underused, among them award-winning singer Sathida Prompiriya who plays Sorn’s love Chot.

The production design is another hodgepodge, apparently reflecting a conflict within the set design team on one clear direction. They also seem to have quarrelled with the video graphic designer as some scenes seem to belong to other shows.

This “Overture” might not be a grand opener – and it won’t stir as much interest in classical Thai music as the 2004 movie – but audiences should enjoy the fact that we now have another commercial theatre venue, good hardware that awaits equally good software.

Take note, though the show was earlier publicised with appearances by Silpathorn laureate artists Pradit Prasartthong from Anatta Theatre and the Boy Thai band’s Chaiyoot Tosa-nga, as Sorn’s father and Khun In, are no with the show.

 BACK AFTER

SONGKRAN

- “Hom Rong: The Musical” continues from April 23 to 26 and April 30 to May 3 at the Kbank Siam Pic-Ganesh Centre of Performing Arts on the seventh floor of Siam Square One. Shows are at 7.30 nightly 2pm on Saturday and Sunday. Additional shows may be added in May

- It’s in Thai – no English translation. Tickets are from Bt1,000 to Bt3,000 at ThaiTicketMajor.

- For more details, visit SiamPicGanesha.com.