Thailand gets its Tonys

Art January 25, 2013 00:00

By Pawit Mahasarinand
Special to

2,950 Viewed

For the first time in Thailand, dance and theatre critics prepare to give out annual awards


With little happening on stage during the 2011 floods, a dozen Thai dance and theatre critics who write for various publications got together and formed an association they called “Chomrom Wichan Sinlapa Kan Sadeng”.
   They then applied to join the 57-year-old International Association of Theatre Critics (IATC) and were unanimously accepted as a new national section by the membership at its World Congress in Warsaw last March making this the first national section of theatre critics in Southeast Asia. Thus their formal English name sounds a little grander than its Thai counterpart: the International Association of Theatre Critics—Thailand Centre (IATC-TC). 
   After many monthly meetings during which they where shared thoughts and argued about dance and theatre productions they had watched and written about, they’re now giving the inaugural “IATC-Thailand Awards” to contemporary Thai dance and theatre artists. 
   Two decades ago during its heyday, the Monthienthong Theatre honoured artists who performed there with the Golden Mask Awards. Several years later, Patravadi Theatre held similar recognition. But there have never been any awards that cover the wide spectrum of contemporary dance and theatre in Thailand, the way dance and theatre critics have been doing in other countries.
   A criterion is that eligible professional dance and theatre productions must have been premiered in Bangkok between January 1 to December 31, 2012. 
IATC-TC’s vice president Montakan Ransibrahmanakul, editor of Madame Figaro, editor, explains “people always say giving awards is like giving moral support; ours are not that exactly. It’s more a way of expressing our thanks for the artists’ perseverance that has enabled them to create such great works.” 
   At the no-red carpet, no-tuxedo award presentation ceremony on February 5, the IATC-TC will also honour grand dame of contemporary Thai dance and theatre Patravadi “Khru Lek” Mejudhon with the Lifetime Achievement Award for her lifelong and numerous contributions. 
Khru Lek, who will be present at the ceremony, has graciously accepted the award, saying, “Thank you very much all IATC-TC members for honouring me with this award. Although you say this is a small award, it is tremendous for me. You are a group of experts and there are no hidden reasons why you’re giving these awards.” 
   Leading the nominations in the 11 categories are Pichet Klunchun Dance Company’s “Ganesh” and Democrazy Theatre Studio’s “The Chairs”, both up for four awards. The former is for best movement-based performance, best director, best performance by an ensemble and best art direction. The latter is for best play, best director, best performance by a male artist, namely Saifah Tanthana, and best performance by a female artist, Sumontha Suanpholrat.
Following closely behind is B-Floor Theatre’s “Bang Lamerd”, up for best movement-based performance, best original script, best performance by a female artist, Ornanong Thaisriwong. 
   B-Floor’s “Oxygen” is also up for best movement-based performance, best performance by an ensemble and best art direction. Another triple nominee is Democrazy’s “The Odd Couple (Queer Version)” for best play, best adaptation script and best performance by an ensemble. 
Responding to the profusion of musicals last year, IATC-TC also has specific categories for them. Nominees for best musical award are Dreambox’s “Dreamgirls” and “Pritsana”, as well as Scenario’s “Miss Saigon”. Nominees for best book for a musical are “Mae Bia”, “Pritsana” and “Nueng Nai Duangchai”. Shut out from any awards due to mostly negative reviews are “Rak Chab Chai”, “Reya” and “Rak Ha Hok Sao”.
   Another IATC-TC member Alongkorn Parivudthipongs, Bangkok Post’s theatre critic who now divides his time between Bangkok and London, declines to give any votes despite his many reviews of musicals last year. “Would you like my vote for the worst musical of the year instead?”, he says.
   Notwithstanding the notoriously sharp tongues of their members, IATC-TC has no plans, yet, to give out Thai version of Razzie Awards.
   At the event, which is supported by the Ministry of Culture’s Office of Contemporary Art and Culture and the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC), audiences will get a selection of reviews written on nominated dance and theatre works. Critics will be on stage, reading their reviews on the works who win in each category before handing out the award to the artist. And that’s a chance to see whether they’re as good, or mean, vocally as they’re in written words. 
ATC-Thailand Awards 2012’ takes place on February 5 at 6:30pm at the Multi-purpose room, 1st floor, Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC), (BTS: National Stadium). 
All dance and theatre artists and fans are welcome.