By Pawit Mahasarinand
Special to The Nation
On Thursday, July 26, Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana graciously presided over the opening ceremony of the Silpathorn Awards 2018 exhibition at the Ratchadamnoen Contemporary Art Centre. The Princess herself is among the seven recipients of the national award, which is given out annually by the Culture Ministry’s Office of Contemporary Art and Culture – the youngest awardee and the first member of the Royal Family. Her performing arts colleague is B-Floor Theatre’s Teerawat “Ka-ge” Mulvilai.
“This national award recognises mid-career artists who have been continuously working in different disciplines of contemporary arts for a considerable number of years,” Ka-ge tells The Nation.
“With the two keywords being ‘contemporary’ and ‘continuously’, I think my works have hit the right buttons and I know my name had been on the [Silpathorn Award nominees’] list for many years. After a while, I stopped wondering whether I would be recognised, and so this year, it’s a delightful surprise.”
He jokes, as critically as many of his works do, “Maybe now that they’ve taken me off the list, they can look for a younger generation of artists.”
Theatre audiences, critics and fellow artists, though, think that this recognition is long overdue for Ka-ge. Even before his B-Floor days, just after he graduated from Chiang Mai University’s Faculty of Fine Arts, we took notice of his performance in Crescent Moon Theatre’s works. In the noughties, I picked his solo work “GODa Gardener” as one of the decade’s most memorable. Fast-forwarding to more recently, in 2014 and 2015, his trilogy of solo works “Satapana: Red Tank”, “Satapana: Iceberg” and “Iceberg: The Invisible” at three different venues effectively conveyed his political messages. The same can be said for his collaboration with South Korea’s Theatre Mommgol, which resulted in three productions of “Something Missing” from 2016 to last year. His “Fundamental”, in which he worked with young members of B-Floor last year, was the biggest winner of IATC Thailand Dance and Theatre Awards. His performance afterwards, in Oriza Hirata’s “Bangkok Notes” proves that he can also perform in a spoken drama. In fact, in the short six-year history of IATC Thailand Dance and Theatre Awards, B-Floor as a company has been the most lauded, as has Ka-ge as an individual artist, for his performance, direction and even art direction.
"Something Missing -Rite of Passage"
His B-Floor Theatre’s co-founder and co-artistic director Jarunun Phantachat was given the same award four years ago and Ka-ge notes: “This is the first time in the performing arts here in Thailand and I’m sure there will be third and the fourth members of B-Floor who will become Silpathorn artists. It’s evident that while all members of B-Floor work in the genre of physical theatre, our works differ and all members have staged their own works unlike many other companies who are centred around single director or playwright.”
However, now in its 19th year, B-Floor Theatre is faced with a major problem. The support from the Pridi Banomyong Institute ended last year and they now don’t have their own studio in which to rehearse and to perform. Ka-ge says, “This has greatly affected us. As you’ll remember, we used to be able to stage three or four full-scale productions a year, but this year we simply cannot.”
As evidence to support his remark: so far this year, the audience has only got to watch “Sawan Arcade”, postponed from last November, at Democrazy Theatre Studio and the work-in-progress showing of “Trance” at the Goethe Institut auditorium.
“Now that B-Floor has two Silpathorn artists, hopefully we can get more support from OCAC in not only creating our works but also touring them, both domestically and internationally. In fact, with the current problem, the production of our latest work ‘Trance’ is lighter and easier to tour.”
B-Floor is celebrating its 20th anniversary next year, and Ka-ge reveals part of B-Floor’s plan, saying, “In our early years, our works were influenced by many dance and theatre styles and techniques, such as butoh, laban and viewpoints. We’ve developed them into our own styles and techniques and I think it’s worth documenting these in book form.”
Later this month, Ka-ge can be seen onstage at Sodsai Pantoomkomol Centre for Dramatic Arts in the world premiere of internationally acclaimed Japanese director and playwright Toshiki Okada’s “Pratthana – A Portrait of Possession”, in Thai with English and Japanese surtitles. This adaptation of another Silpathorn Award 2018 recipient, Uthis Haemamool’s “Rang Khong Pratthana” will also be staged at Centre Georges Pompidou, as part of Festival d’automne a Paris this October.
Ka-ge is working on the revival of his 2015 work “Mano Land”, which will open the Bangkok Theatre Festival this November and then tour to Tokyo. He plans to stage the full production of “Trance” next May, and is seeking further support for it.
An anecdote: Ka-ge shared with me that Princess Sirivannavari, having visited his part of the exhibition, asked if she could join his physical theatre workshop.
“I said ‘Yes!’”
AN EXHIBITION AND MORE