THE FACT THAT most theatre troupes in Thailand focus on specific style and content means that when some members of these groups want to work on others they need to find, or found, another collective. This is most evident during the annual Bangkok Theatre Festival (BTF) where we get to watch the only work of the year by certain groups. Some even joke that here the number of troupes, or collectives, exceed that of working artists. This is like a double-edged sword. Although it reflects a wide variety of work by professional artists, sustainability, or longevity, is a problem– we simply don’t know which Facebook page to follow.
Such is the case with Club Sudvisai, literally “accidental”, an annual loose gathering of theatre artists who are either affiliated with other groups or independent. Last year, they gave us a memorable evening at Democrazy Theatre Studio when their five variations on the theme and prefix “Long”, literally, “being lost” or “being obsessed with”, took us to different corners of the space. This year, they’re at Yelo House, a printing-house-turned-art-gallery-and-restaurant in Soi Kasemsan 1, conveniently located within walking distance from both National Stadium and Ratchathewi BTS stations.
Collectively called “Memoir”, the prefix for each of the four playlets is “Cham”, “remember”, and the theme is “memory”. The director and playwright drew lots, and developed each work separately with some of them even performing in a colleague’s work. For Thai-speaking audiences, this title, when pronounced instead of translated, can also mean “blurred memory”.
Performed in a meeting room on the mezzanine floor and watched by the audience from outside, Wichaya Artamat’s “Cham Apple ID mai dai,” literally “I can’t remember my Apple ID”, reminds us of how much we depend on our communication devices and how they influence, if not dictate, our lives. On the mezzanine in front of the exhibition’s information board on the same floor, Parnrut Kritchanchai’s “Cham duean”, “Remember the month”, pokes fun at how we, in this dominantly Buddhist society, always rely on supernatural power. In the small hallway near the studio’s main entrance, Jaturachai Srichanwanpen’s “Chamlong”, or “Mock-up”, is about a modern relationship with a sharp and smart twist towards the end. Back on the mezzanine where curtains are drawn to form a small studio, a man’s request for 100-year hibernation is denied in internationally famous film actor-cum-playwright and director Witwisit Hiranyawongkul’s “Cham sin”, or “hibernate”.
For people my age in whose lives a lot has happened, many moments in “Memoir”, thanks in part to clever playwriting and direction as well as apt performance, brought back both fond and forgettable memories of certain incidents and people. That said, I wish there had been more connection between the four stories and with the exhibition in the space.
And in this crucial time when there’s a shortage of rehearsal and performance space – with a few closed last year and no new ones added thus far – Yelo House has become a welcome alternative, hosting two performances at BTF last November for small audiences despite requiring great creativity in dealing with the space’s viewing limitations.
As boundaries between different genres of arts continue to blur, their spectators continue to merge and a rising number of museums and art galleries, both small and large, around the world are opening their doors late in the evening for performances as well as inviting them to share, and occasionally respond to, the exhibited works in, the visual arts space during the daytime.
In this case of “Memoir”, I was able to convince an architect friend, who rarely watches stage performance, to cut short her Bangkok Design Week itinerary and join me at another “comfort zone” art gallery. I’m sure this trend will continue.
AN IDEA FOR YOUR VALENTINE
“Memoir” continues until Wednesday, Valentine’s Day, at Yelo House.
It’s in Thai with no English translation. Book your tickets now at (089) 658 8823.
Keep track of the group at Facebook.com/ClubSudvisai