FIRST, a brief recap of what’s just happened in the year that’s about to end.
Two venues were added: namely Syrup the Space in Soi Thong Lor and the new white box theatre as part of Chang Theatre in Thung Khru, Thonburi. The former was active in the first half of the year but has been silent for a while now; the latter, home to Pichet Klunchun Dance Company, has also been occasionally hosting works by artists other than the world-renowned Thai choreographer. But despite this new space, the Thai audience has not yet had a chance to watch his company’s “Dancing with Death”, which has been to Japan, Singapore, Australia and Taiwan already since its premiere almost two years ago. And it’s not even banned!
French choreographers will work with 15 Thai performers and nonperformers in “Gala”./Photo Josefina Tommasi
By contrast, another major venue in Soi Thonglor, namely the Pridi Banomyong Institute, where Crescent Moon Space and B-Floor Room have lived for many years and which other groups were making use for rehearsals, has halted its support for stage works. The three resident companies, which include Babymime, have not yet found a new home.
Meanwhile, artists have been using other non-conventional spaces for stage works to exciting effect. Two notable examples were Full Fat Theatre’s “[Co/Exist]” at Warehouse 20 and B-Floor’s “Blissfully Blind” at Bangkok CityCity Gallery– and both were the top winners at the International Association of Theatre Critics (IATC) Thailand Dance and Theatre Awards 2017. The former was also performed in English and that reflects an important trend towards English-language works, among them Life Theatre’s “Life X 3” at Thong Lor Art Space, in this semi-colonial kingdom.
Nouveau cirque artists of Compagnie Defracto will wow both kids and adults at the BICT Fest./Photo BICT Fest
After its cancellation in 2016, Bangkok Theatre Network’s Bangkok Theatre Festival (BTF) returned in November with its new section Bangkok International Performing Arts Meeting (BIPAM). Its efficient preparation of both artists and audiences through many pre-festival activities proves that BTF is no longer just an annual informal gathering of Thai theatre artists, but is now constantly engaging theatre lovers here and overseas.
It’s also noteworthy that after a few years in hiatus the Culture Ministry’s Office of Contemporary Art and Culture (OCAC) has resumed the Silpathorn Awards. Our congratulations again go to veteran stage director Suwandee Jakravoravudh whose staging of “Ratri Thi Sipsong: Ao Thi Sabai Chai”, Daraka Wongsiri’s translation of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night”, truly explains this national recognition.
King Rama VI’s nationalistic drama “Phra Ruang” is being adapted into a musical and will be staged at Muang Thai Rachadalai Theatre in February.
The 2018 stage calendar starts with “10 Sen”, a collaboration between French dancer and choreographer Julie Nioche and Thai dance movement therapist Dujdao Vadhanapakorn on traditional Thai massage and osteopathy. This is the first phase of Nioche’s research that will continue later this year and the work-in-progress presentation on the first Friday evening of the year, as part of “French Highlights #3”, at Sodsai Pantoomkomol Centre for Dramatic Arts will be open to the public, free-of-charge, thanks to the support of the Institut Francaise and French Embassy in Thailand.
Also part of “French Highlights #3” is the much anticipated return of Jerome Bel, whose dance dialogue “Pichet Klunchun and Myself” has been staged worldwide after premiering at the Bangkok Fringe Festival more than a decade ago. At the Chang Theatre, Bel will work with 15 performers and non-performers on the conceptual dance work “Gala”, which he has already staged at Sadler’s Wells among other venues.
At the BICT Fest 2018, Belgium’s kabinet k will prove that contemporary dance can also be enjoyed by young children./Photo Kurt van Der Elst
Postponed from Bangkok Theatre Festival (BTF) last month after a nasty bite by her dog, long-time B-Floor member Ornanong “Golf” Thaisriwong’s “Sawan Arcade” will start on January 8 at Democrazy Theatre Studio. Here, she’s invites us to join her in paradise and to question what’s happening around us. The press release, though, doesn’t specifically say if she also invited army officers, who showed up for every performance of her last solo “Bang Lamerd”.
Postponed due to an injury, Ornanong “Golf” Thaisriwong is now ready for her solo work “Sawan Arcade”./Photo BFloor Theatre
B-Floor will tour its highly acclaimed work “Sandan Ka” to Tokyo in late February and its new work scheduled for May has not yet found a suitable venue at home.
At Thong Lor Art Space, New Theatre Society’s Damkerng Thitapiyasak will stage a new adaptation of Yasmina Reza’s dark comedy “God of Carnage” in March. Among the cast is Pattarasuda “Bua” Anuman Rajadhon, who will herself stage Daraka Wongsiri’s murder drama “Crimson Rose” in June at the same venue.
There are also a few intercultural collaborations to watch for. “Portrait of the Desire” is Japanese playwright and director Toshiki Okada’s adaptation of SEA Write laureate this Haemamool’s new work of the same name. With professional Thai actors already in rehearsal, the play will have a world premiere in Bangkok in August before making its European debut at Centre Pompidou as part of Festival d’Automne a Paris.
French dancer and choreographer Julie Nioche discussed her upcoming collaboration with Thai dance movement therapist Dujdao Vadhanapakorn in Paris last March./ Photo Pawit Mahasarinand
“Negotiation”, Pichet’s collaboration with France-based Lao hip-hop artist Ole Khamchanla, will have its world premiere in Strasbourg on January 30 before being staged in Paris and other French cities in February and March. It will also be part of the New Vision Arts Festival in Hong Kong in November. No Bangkok dates have yet been set. Word is that there’s no political content in this work so it shouldn’t be banned.
After a low-key 2017, award-winning choreographer and director Thanapol Virulhakul is preparing a new work called “The Retreat.” A rumour, and a very exciting one, is that Pichet and Thanapol are also planning a collaboration, although, like many rumours, we don’t know yet when and where.
Muangthai Rachadalai Theatre will host “Phra Ruang The Musical” next month, with a number of professional crooners who have won acclaim for their musical theatre performance in the line-up. Later in the year, the resident company Scenario will restage “Mae Nak Phra Khanong The Musical”, to mark its 10th anniversary, but hasn’t confirmed if it will also celebrate its 12th, 15th and 20th anniversary as well, so it’s better for us to catch it now.
Then in October, a new musical “I Was Born in the Reign of King Rama IX”, will be on stage following its TV broadcast earlier this year.
As for festivals, Democrazy’s and Arts on Location’s second edition of the biannual Bangkok International Children’s Theatre Festival (BICT Fest) will return in May to Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC) and Sodsai Pantoomkomol Centre for Dramatic Arts. A strong focus will be French nouveau cirque performances although there are other genres from other countries as well. Workshops, talks and a forum on youth theatre in Southeast Asia are also on the programme. Rumour is that Pichet, himself a father of a five-year-old, might create a new work for this festival too.
Bangkok’s International Festival of Dance and Music will return to Thailand Cultural Centre in September, and as it’s the 20th edition, we can expect a more exciting line-up than the previous one.
BTF and Friends of the Arts Foundation’s International Dance Festival (IDF) will be in November as always but as their main hub BACC is also hosting the inaugural Bangkok Art Biennale, which will take up most of its space, it could be interesting to see how different art genres connect to one another.
Lastly, our thanks to all the dance and theatre artists, producers, presenters and supporters whose work has helped make our evenings and weekend fruitful throughout the year. Through our previews and reviews here, we look forward to continue recording the development of contemporary dance and theatre in Thailand.