From collaborations to creations
Post-pandemic, B-Floor Theatre remains prolific in collaborations and creations—their members can deliver dialogues too
Before the pandemic, B-Floor Theatre had been known —both locally and internationally— as Thailand’s premier physical theatre company. Winners of IATC Thailand Dance and Theatre awards, their movement-based productions have voiced, silently yet powerfully, social and political commentaries. The same can be said for their international collaborations like that with Japan’s Hanchu-Yuei in “Girl X” and South Korea’s Theatre Momggol in a trilogy of “Something Missing.”
However, two recent international collaborations, developed during the pandemic and mainly supported by foreign funds, have proved that members of B-Floor are also deft in handling dialogues in both Thai and English—namely, “A Thai Mirror” and “I Don’t Care.”
As part of Bangkok Theatre Festival 2022, “A Thai Mirror” (in Thai title, “Krachok Thai”) was B-Floor’s collaboration with France’s Compagnie franchement, tu, with support from Institut Francaise, Region Hauts-de-France and French Embassy in Thailand. Two performances, by-invitation-only, at Thammasat Playhouse on Rangsit campus were followed by three public performances at Alliance Francaise Bangkok auditorium last weekend.
French playwright and director Nicolas Kerszenbaum’s compelling “political thriller” first tells how a French woman visits her brother and his Thai fiancée in Kanchanaburi and finds them missing and then flashes back one year prior to the Northeastern historic French town Besancon where the romantic and political relationships took shape.
The two French actors Marion Bottolier and Ulysse Bosshard and the two Thai ones Sarut Komalittipong and Wasu Wanrayangkoon worked well altogether as they spoke naturally in colloquial French, Thai and English. On an almost bare stage, they made it the scenes in France and Thailand credible and told the story clearly.
The music and sound design collaboration of Sarah Metais-Chastanier and Warong Boonaree was another highlight as their work not only created the corresponding atmosphere and stirred the audience’s imagination but also told many stories. Watching them perform different instruments, both traditional and electronic, on stage right was a delight as both became another two actors in this work.
A few slight letdowns are that disappearance of political activists is one of the most frequently used storylines by Thai theatre artists since the last coup d’etat. Some audiences might also feel, after watching this work, that this is yet another reaffirmation of the French government’s assistance for Thai political activists who fight for “democracy”.
Two months earlier, B-Floor’s collaboration with Munich’s Residenztheater “I Don’t Care” (in Thai title, “Mai wa yang rai”), billed as a docufiction by writer and critic Jurgen Berger and funded by Goethe Institut Thailand, had its world premiere at Jim Thompson Art Center.
Based on Berger’s interviews with transgender people in Thailand and Germany between 2017 and 2022, the work was filled with vast amount of information but never felt like an information overload thanks to the co-directors B-Floor’s co-artistic director Jarunun “Ja” Phantachat and Anna-Elisabeth Frick. As the German director’s works range from spoken drama to dance and music, it’s a good match with Ja to begin with.
Setting the performance area in traverse configuration with two sides of the audience facing each other, they asked us to look not only the performers and their stage actions but also how they’re related to other audience members or representatives of the society. The work then relied on presentational modes, frequently like that of a game show, to engage the audience effectively and then discuss issues about transgender people openly and directly.
Interestingly, the tone was considerably light-hearted throughout the performance although the issues discussed were not, like the legal process involved in one’s change from one gender to another in Germany and the fact that Thailand is still far behind the rest of the world when it comes to inclusivity. Credit was due in part to a tightly knitted ensemble comprising German performer and member of Residenztheater ensemble Mareike Beykirch and her Thai counterparts Sarut and Pathavee Thepkraiwan who’s having a ball in this work. Shifting back and forth effortlessly among Thai, German and English languages as the audience occasionally read the translation surtitles, the trio was like storytellers, performers, entertainers, moderators and discussants all at once.
In October, “I Don’t Care” had a two-week run in the Bavarian capital and I’m sure it will continue elsewhere soon. In the program it’s noted that “both Bangkok and Munich are home to an unusually large number of specialists in sex reassignment surgery.” Lastly, theatregoers may recall that Berger was an initiator of the 2016 Thailand-Germany physical theatre collaboration on interracial relationship “Happy Hunting Ground” by Democrazy Theatre Studio and Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe. To put it differently, this cultural relationship has sustained and it’s important that Thailand’s cultural bodies start taking a look at it and lending support.
This month, B-Floor is back at Bangkok Art and Culture Centre’s 4th floor Studio, with fewer dialogues and more physical movement, as they will close out BACC’s Performative Art Project (PAP) with “Cloud State” featuring two works.
From today (December 2) to Sunday, 7pm, and December 7 to 11, veteran actress and dance movement psychotherapist Dujdao “Dao” Vadhanapakorn’s “Paranoid – Schizoid”, an experiential performance in which she explores, as the title suggests, “a state of infants who cannot process the fact that a person can consist of both good and bad” and, as B-Floor always does, how this relates to the contemporary Thai society. Sharing the stage with Dao are two recipients of Silpathorn Award and B-Floor’s co-artistic directors themselves, “Ja” and Teerawat “Ka-ge” Mulvilai, in addition to another seasoned thespian Ornanong “Golf” Thaisriwong. Dao notes, “This performance aims to use the psychological state merely as an inspiration for her art; it’s not meant to be a scientific study to prove any clinical facts.”
The following weekend (December 15 to 18) at the same venue, the newly graduated Thammasat University theatre class of 2022, who have studied with B-Floor members, will restage their senior project work “It’s Just a Fiction (Not Mentioning Anything)”, described as “a story of a society oppressing its people with a so-called ‘education’.” Rumor is that Thailand’s most prolific complainer Srisuwan Janya may book a ticket.
Tickets for the former are Bt750 and the latter Bt600, available now at https://www.facebook.com/Bfloor.theatre.group/.