June 02, 2014 00:00 By Pawit Mahasarinand
The annual French-Thai cultural series, aims more at exchanges and collaboration
This Wednesday evening at the Alliance Franaise Auditorium, Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn will preside over a concert by the world famous Parisii String Quartet, who will interpret compositions by Boccherini, Haydn, Schumann, Debussy and Schubert and formally launch the tenth edition of the much-loved annual French-Thai cultural festival La Fete.
This 10th festival – it should have been the 11th but it was cancelled in 2010 – is also the 10th anniversary of La Fete, whose short history has tremendously contributed to the development of contemporary arts in Thailand, as well as cemented the diplomatic relationship between the two countries.
The format has changed over the years with the French Embassy, the organiser, demonstrating less interest in amazing Thai audiences with contemporary French arts for a month, and greater enthusiasm for creating links and connections between artists of the two countries throughout the year.
And thus the festival continues to be more “French-Thai”, or for those who prefer a fun culinary pun “Thai French”, as we refer to our succulent beef.
Sitting down for an Indian lunch recently, the two head honchos of La Fete – head of cultural and cooperation section Jeremy Opritesco and cultural attache Benoit Etienne – talked about what they have in store for us.
“In this year’s programme, you’ll see a few productions that are truly co-productions between French and Thai artists – for example, A.lter S.essio and Pichet Klunchun’s ‘Loss’ [June 11] and Les Remouleurs’ “Borders” [June 23-24], Opritesco says, as Etienne adds that the A.lter S.essio team has already taken up residence at Chang Theatre and Pichet is working with them in recreating this piece.”
As for the two-year project “Borders”, which was proposed by Les Remoulers after having performed and established initial connections in Thailand and Laos, Etienne says that Thai puppeteer Sutarath Sinnong received a grant to study puppetry in France. The French company later travelled to many provinces studying various styles of Thai puppetry and finally had a one-month residency in Chiang Mai. “Borders” will soon be staged in France.
“It’s beautiful how French and Thai artists meet one another by themselves [instead of us attempting on match-making] and then ask us to support their collaboration projects,” he grins.
Another project that made its debut last year and was deemed “a success” is Galleries’ Night. So on July 5 visitors will again be able to hop from one art gallery to another from 7pm onwards.
“Last year, we went with the French ambassador to three galleries during this event and he was very surprised to find more than a hundred young people in one gallery in Soi Sukhumvit 31 at midnight,” recalls Opritesco.
“It’s purely Thai but with a French concept. We hope to develop this further and maybe in 20 years or so we may have something like ‘Nuit Blanche’ in Paris,” says Opritesco.
“But over there, the gallery hopping has a budget of a million euros for just one evening,” he adds.
“Some EU countries are also taking part in this event as they’re organising exhibitions at various galleries in this time frame and we hope to expand more on such collaboration.”
There’s even a soupcon of exchange in events that seems purely French. Etienne calls the opportunity to present the Parisii String Quartet “one of the most prestigious projects” thanks in part to their vast repertoire, which ranges from classical to contemporary and the immense fame and acclaim they have garnered.
“They will conduct a workshop exclusively for the string quartet of the Galyani Vadhana Institute of Music. Likewise, the French hip hop group Pokemon Crew will conduct a workshop for Thai dancers participating in the ‘Hip Hop Battle’ at the Alliance Frannaise on June 15 and so we may have a surprise when they perform their ‘Silence on tourne’ at the Aksra Theatre on June 18”.
Opritesco nods, adding, “It’s right in the middle of the festival and with their dance movements which have been inspired by musical films from the 1930s and 1940s plus nice music, set and costumes, this performance will entertain audiences of all ages the same way Cie Kafig did in ‘Yo Gee Ti’ last year.”
Etienne says Cie 14:20’s “Notte”, a blend of dance, magic, visual effects and circus described, for the current lack of a better term, as “new magic”, is the most amazing performance he’s ever seen. Bangkok audiences can enjoy it on June 13.
Finally, Opritesco and Etienne confirm that the French-Thai cooperation will continue year-round, not only during the 33 days of La Fete. Both are now excited about the Thai-language (with French surtitles) production of Pascal Lambert’s play “Cloture de l’amour” (“Closing of Love”) in early September at Sodsai Pantoomkomol Centre for Dramatic Arts, and the internationally renowned playwright will also attend the premiere and give a lecture. Thanks to the Institut Francaise, the Thai translation is being published by Butterfly Books.
Opritesco also leaks another piece of great news for contemporary dance fans here: “Ballet Preljokaj’s ‘Snow White’, with costumes by Jean-Paul Gaultier [seen last month at Lincoln Centre in New York] will be part of the Bangkok’s International Festival of Dance and Music at the Thailand Cultural Centre in late September.”
The writer wishes to thank the French embassy’s Napadol Wirakan and Asma Sentira for all their assistance.
STICKY RICE AND ECLAIRS
La Fete runs from Wednesday to July 6 at various venues.
Some events are free, but for tickets, see www.ThaiTicketMajor.com.
The complete programme can be found at www.Cooperation-AmbaFrance-th.org/lafete. or check out Facebook.com/lafete.festival.