By Pawit Mahasarinand
Special to The Nation
The 2016 theatre season concluded last Thursday at B-Floor Room with a group of young theatre makers known as Dee-ng presenting “Yard”, their third work to date.
Playwright and director Kwin Bhichitkul started by inviting the audience into the studio theatre, which was painted in pastel shades to look like an empty piece of land. His salesman’s introductory speech and the programme leaflet provided the information that it was up for sale. The salesman himself took a seat in the front row among the audience and watched with us as the action in the “Yard” unfolded.
Two characters, listed in the programme simply and anonymously as The Male and The Female, were playing a game – throwing orange balls at each other. Some of these balls were in fact real oranges and so they peeled and ate them. A stranger, who never uttered a word, entered and set up a tent, putting the upper halves of Star Wars figurines outside his tent. The couple wanted him to join their game but he refused. After about 70 minutes, the story ended tragically and the salesman himself took all the characters away from the stage.
In an almost silent role, Peerapol Kijruenpiromsuk, as the dude to whom the couple often referred to as “snail” because of his tent, stole the show with his charming presence and an energy that aptly filled the small room. By contrast, Praphaphan Suthirawut as the Female and Suwichan Meekao as the Male occupants of the yard were simply too loud and animated for such a small space. And when the latter introduced the former to the dude as his “girlfriend”, I was yelling, very silently of course, “What?” In short, their characterisation seriously needed more work.
My first thought was of the excessive land development in major cities of Thailand where, seemingly, anyone can build anything anywhere, no matter what the effects on the people who live there and the environment.
My second thought was that Dee-ng was aiming to convey messages more sophisticated and political than their play looked and sounded, given how politically divided we’ve become in recent years. Here, a dramaturg who would make sure that the play reaches this second level and the audience gets another message might come in handy. Still, it’s also a reminder that while theatre, thanks to its exposure to a more limited number of spectators than other media, remains free of censorship, artists cannot express their views too bluntly and a parable like this seems a safe path. After all, we go to theatre to exercise our imagination and critical mind, don’t we?
And since this is my last review of 2016, on behalf of the Thailand centre of International Association of Theatre critics, I would like to thank all theatre artists whose works have livened up the Thai stage this past year, notwithstanding sometimes difficult circumstances. My thanks also go to the audiences whose attendance at various venues and attention to these works prove that contemporary Thai theatre, while still in development, is thriving more than most people think. We wish all of you happy holidays and an even more fruitful 2017.
- Keep track of this group at www.facebook.com/FellowshipOfTheDeeNg.