By PAWIT MAHASARINAND
THE PAST FEW years have seen an impressive increase in the number of English-speaking theatre groups in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, and Bangkok Community Theatre, the oldest of them all, remains prolific as ever.
Reflecting on this change of landscape, long-time BCT member Don Harrelson says, “The more theatre the better!
“BCT members are involved in many of the productions staged by these new companies and we are always happy to help promote them. The new groups have announced a range of productions for the coming year and these include new plays as well as some classics. Some of the new groups are lucky enough to have a resident director/producer so they can plan their programme a year out whereas BCT is entirely dependent on volunteers and our annual schedule is limited by what they want to stage.
“That said, we always welcome proposals for new and exciting productions from Bangkok's directors and producers.”
Bangkok Community Theatre recently greenlighted a proposal by American director Mimi Carter, who was here in the early 2000s before moving to Manila and is now back. It’s a murder mystery by David Moberg, “Fanfare to Murder”.
“I directed this production in Manila in September 2014,” Carter tells XP. “In 2007 I met a fellow American who was also a thespian and we were frustrated at the lack of English-speaking theatre for the expat community, so we started an Arts for Charity non-profit theatre called MMQ, Theatre and Events group. MMQ was very much like BCT, open to everyone, giving back to the community and producing English-language theatre.
“My last project ‘Fanfare’ was staged at the Dusit Thani Manila hotel, for only two performances. The first was done for an audience of more than 200 in the main ballroom and the second in their basement night club for about 125 people.”
And that, she says, is the major difference between Manila and Bangkok productions.
“When I pitched this to BCT, I was adamant that the audience must number less than 100. This play is from NoTechTheatre, which specialises in murder-mystery theatre that can be moved to different places and requires little-to-no technical requirements – no special lighting, no microphones and very few sound cues. If the place is too big you lose the intimacy that the cast shares with the audience.”
“There’s lot of physical comedy and silly jokes and perimeter style acting in this show. This is a scripted interactive production, which means that there will be interaction with the audience but limited improv to keep the pace and action at a high level. The actors stay among the audience for most of the evening with only a little bit of action taking place on the stage. The story is designed around a timeframe so the audience will be served a three-course dinner during the evening and will eat and enjoy a show in less than two hours.”
Carter calls this “dinner theatre with a twist” and explains, “The audience will be integrated into the solving of a murder that takes place sometime during the evening, and during their meal. They will begin the evening with a cash bar pre-show in the hotel foyer, then the doors will open at 7.30 and the salads will be served. This is when Act 1 begins, and we are introduced to Joanna Janeen (performed by Eleanor Marsh), a rising star of song and screen, and her entourage who all have their own agendas and schemes that will unfold throughout the evening.
At the end of Act 1 the main course will be served, and Act 2 begins with the questioning of the suspects. Inspector Grout (Vineet Kumar) takes control of the situation. At the end of Act 2 dessert is served and the murder will be solved during Act 3, and we hope that one lucky person will correctly guess the identity of the murderer and walk away with a lovely door prize.”
From the open auditions, Carter recruited four Thai, one Indian and two American thespians, including three newcomers – Vineet Kumar, Aspari Kulthanan and Eleanor Marsh – and five returning members – Celia Barthman, Peevara Kitchumnongpan, Dariya Suebkraisorn, Sea Thaicharoen and Bonnie Zellerbach.
- The Bangkok Community Theatre will put on “Fanfare to Murder” from November 5 to 7 and from November12 to 14 at the DoubleTree by Hilton on Sukhumvit Soi Sukhumvit 26, a 10-minute walk from BTS Phrom Phong. Shows starts at 7pm.
- Tickets are Bt850, including dinner (vegetarian option available).
- For more details, check www.BangkokCommunity|Theatre.com.