By PAWIT MAHASARINAND
TWO DAYS AGO, Pichet Klunchun Dance Company’s “The Gentlemen” was honoured with two IATC Thailand Awards for best movement-based performance and best performance by an ensemble. The company is now in rehearsal for its grandest production to date, “Dancing with Death”, scheduled for its Southeast Asia premiere at Singapore’s Esplanade Theatre in early May, and they’re raising funds for Bangkok performance in June.
But the pressures of work aren’t stopping the Silpathorn laureate and Thailand’s first recipient of the John D Rockefeller III Award from taking some time off this weekend to work with one of his die-hard fans and patrons, the revered philosopher and activist Sulak Sivaraksa. The two will take the stage for a highly anticipated one-evening-only performance titled “Prat Thon Thuk”, literally “a philosopher who endures misery” and a wordplay on the Ramakien episode of “Narai prap Nonthuk”.
“The original idea came from Sulak”, says Pichet. “I’ve been performing at his birthday anniversary [March 27] for the past few years and this year, his 83rd, he told me, I don’t want to just sit and watch you perform; I want to perform with you’.
“I proposed this episode because it’s directly relevant to the context of Thai society, not only in the past but also right now. It talks about class differences, power and the misuse of it, as well as justice. For example, the angels conducted many misdeeds and yet they were never punished. On the contrary, the one who was wronged by them when he took his revenge was. Does that sound like a recent incident here in Thailand?”
Pichet was in a contemporary production of “Nonthuk” by Pornrat Damrhung about two decades ago performing with actor Dangkamon Na-pombejra in Bangkok and in its classical version in Singapore.
“Yet I’ve never staged it in Thailand, until now,” he says.
“In the new version, I believe it’s easier for the audience to be able to relate this ancient story to what’s happening here and now. They’ll be able to see what each character represents in our society. Most of us regard this episode as the beginning of ‘Ramakien’ [as Narai defeated Nonthuk and granted him a reincarnation as a 10-headed and 20-armed Thotsakan, and Narai himself was reborn as Phra Ram].
Pichet is portraying Nonthuk and Sulak is Phra Narai.
“In the first rehearsal, I was surprised to see that he knew how to perform classical Thai dance. I know he loves watching it but performing … I had no idea.”
They will be joined by National Artist painter and writer Thepsiri Suksopha, whose character of Phra Isuan will also paint on stage. Another Silpathorn Artist Pradit Prasartthong will dance the angel, an impersonation of Phra Narai, who tricked Nonthuk into killing himself.
Pichet explains, “For me, this character symbolises passion; it’s not simply a female character. When Nonthuk was enjoying his power, his passion led him to his doom.”
Pichet notes that right now about 50 tickets are available for the public and the proceeds will be donated to the “We are all Billy” fund, and adds, “The performance is about 45 minutes but the actual length also depends on Sulak’s [Phra Narai’s] final monologue, which we never rehearse.”
Expect a social and political commentary for that finale.
SPEECH AND DANCE
- “Prat Thon Thuk” will be performs at 6.45pm on Saturday in the fifth-floor auditorium of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre.
- Tickets are Bt500. For details, call (086) 763 6644 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.