Special child, special show
The re-staging of the original Thai play 'Dek Phiset' is well worth seeing this weekend
In early 2010, young playwright Napak Tricharoendej presented a staged reading of her graduation project, "Dek Phiset" (literally "Special Child") at the multi-purpose room on the ground floor of Bangkok Art and Culture Centre.
Unlike many graduation projects, which have no life and fail to give young artists a career in the professional world, "Dek Phiset" is now back at the BACC, this time in the fifth-floor auditorium. This time round, it's being produced by CP and Kanchanaphisek Somphot School, some of whose staff saw the play's professional debut in late 2010 at Bluebox Studio.
Watching this play for the third time in three years, I was as glued to the seat as the first time and found the twist at the end - how an aluminium clothes hanger can be bent at exactly six degrees - as surprising as the first. Loosely based on the playwright's experience of having an autistic elder brother, it's a fine mix between medical science and humanity, although I think the latter subtly overwhelms the former. We go home with some knowledge about autism but without feeling that we've been in a lecture hall, and we also feel that we should care more about autistic people without having to sit through a sentimental documentary. Deserving much of the credit for this is director Rachaya Limpiyachart.
Three of the cast members from the BlueBox outing return and they're more comfortable in their roles. Young actor Anan Phromdirek, as Pharon, again tricked me into believing that he really is autistic - and I haven't seen him in other roles yet. As his mother Suda, acting coach Rodsukhon Kongket shows that she can also do what she's been teaching. Most commendable is how she controls her emotions while hiding her secret. Another acting coach, Oraphan Ardsamart, playing the TV host Patcharee who interviews Suda, is also smoother than before.
A new member of the cast, and a box office magnet whose appearance made his mae yok (senior female fans) smile and giggle in every scene, is Vivid "Tee AF4" Bawonkittikhachon, who is tasked with six different roles, including a cross-gender portrayal. Unfortunately, he plays them all with a blurring similarity and the only role he nails is Decha, Suda's irresponsible husband.
Set designer Ritirong Jiwakanon deftly adjusted the incredibly small stage to comfortably fit both main settings - Patcharee's TV programme studio and Pharon and Suda's dining room - although the lighting transition is not always smooth. The last visual image is a truly memorable one.
The play is also being performed with English surtitles, and although the projection tampers with the lighting, it's good to show our foreign friends, expats and tourists who were spotted among the audience last Saturday evening, precisely what contemporary Thai theatre is.
- There are five more performances of "Dek Phiset", from Friday to Sunday at 7pm with 2.30pm matinees on Saturday and Sunday in the fifth floor auditorium of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre.
- Tickets are Bt600 and Bt1,000 from www.WeBooking.com, (02) 900 9999.
- Part of the proceeds go to a charity for autistic children.