A new German-Thai theatre collaboration is ready for its world premiere in Bangkok
Bangkok's theatregoers will no doubt have noticed the absence of multi-award winning stage director and choreographer Thanapol “Dtam” Virulhakul, a core member of Democrazy Theatre Studio, from the stage in recent months. That’s because for the best part of a year he’s been working on a transnational project “Happy Hunting Ground” which, for the first time ever, is matching theatre companies from Thailand and Germany. And that’s on top of taking his “Hipster the King” to two festivals in Tokyo and Braunschweig this year.
“[German critic and playwright] Jurgen Berger mentioned his ongoing research for a performance at Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe on the topic of Thai-German personal relationships when he was visiting Bangkok Theatre Festival in late 2014,” says Dtam.
That conversion was revived a few months later when, thanks to support from the Goethe Institut and the host festival, his “Hipster the King” and “I am Thai”, was staged as part of the contemporary Thai theatre showcase at Festival Offene Welt in Ludwigshafen.
“People from the Munich headquarters of the institute got to watch my works and afterwards I was officially approached to join this project for which support had already been greenlighted by Goethe Institut. Meanwhile, Berger was continuing his research, interviewing not only Thai sex workers here but also Thai university students who had married German men and settled there and even Thai-German gay couples. The latter don’t make it to our performance though. Throughout this process, he’s been sending me his interview transcripts and I’ve been working with [German dramaturg] Sarah Israel and my assistant director Peerapol Kijruenpiromsuk.
“Initially, I was looking especially at differences in this topic. I was also thinking of post-colonialism and later on I started to look at these relationships as transnational space. For example, I regard those Thai women who marry German men and settle there as those who are seeking a better life in their marriage migration. And so in this transnational space, there is much more than sexual relationships and desires.
“Finally, I’ve found that bio-politics can explain these private relationships. In many cases, our lifestyles are determined by certain systems of power. For example, not all sex workers are doing this out of choice. Likewise, there are many other socio-economic factors, besides what’s obvious and known, why German men love visiting Thailand mainly for sex tourism.”
Dtam started turning this large amount of research information and analysis into performance last year, creating a “laboratory” at Democrazy. Once he’d settled on his cast – Jens Koch and Luis Quintana from Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe, Silpathorn artist Jarunun Phantachat, Dujdao Vadhanapakorn and Waywiree Ittianunkul of B-Floor Theatre and independent performer and choreographer Vidura Amranand – the development process moved to Karlsruhe. Rehearsals were held six days a week for four weeks and now everyone is in Bangkok, where they have been working for the last two weeks.
“In our ‘laboratory’, these two groups of people – German men and Thai women – are on the same mission and in the same timeframe, yet under different conditions. For example, even when they’re all office workers, different regulations apply. These don’t let the Germans work longer than a certain number of hours. I’m interested in how these conditions affect their behaviour and needs differently. I’ve found that when members of these two groups meet, they fulfil each other’s needs.”
On the other side of the coin, Jan Linders, Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe’s director of drama and another dramaturg for “Happy Hunting Ground”, explains why this work is scheduled to open his theatre’s season.
“Our season motto is ‘About myth and reality’, and ‘Happy Hunting Ground’ falls precisely between cliche and truth, not only of Thai-German relationships but also of women and men in general. Besides, the time between the seasons was the only time of the year in which the performers from Karlsruhe could come to Thailand to rehearse and perform for four weeks in a row. Like most German theatres, we perform in a system of ensemble and repertory, which means that an actor rehearses in the mornings and plays a different show each night. In this process, my two actors and myself are experiencing an art form unusual for German repertory actors: |performance with a focus on the body.”
BANGKOK, BANGSANG & Europe
- “Happy Hunting Ground” premieres at Chulalongkorn University’s Sodsai Pantoomkomol Centre for Dramatic Arts (BTS Siam station, Exit 6) this Thursday at 7:30pm, and continues through Saturday.
- Tickets are Bt600 (Bt300 for students), at (081) 441 5718 and (081) 559 7252.
- The performance will be at Burapha University on September
6-7; then have its European premiere in Karlsruhe from September 22-24, and Bern, Switzerland from September 29-October 1.
- Find out more at Facebook.com/DemocrazyStudio and www.Staatstheater.Karlsruhe.de.