Monday, September 28, 2020

Gone but not forgotten

Sep 23. 2016
B-Floor Theatre's 'Fundamental' marks the 40th anniversary of October 6, 1976. Photo/Wichaya Artamat
B-Floor Theatre's 'Fundamental' marks the 40th anniversary of October 6, 1976. Photo/Wichaya Artamat
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By Pawit Mahasarinand

Special to The Nation

B-Floor’s new work shows how our democracy hasn’t evolved over the last four decades
The poster for the new play “Fundamental”, which features two groups of people with strikingly different reactions to what’s happening in the centre, immediately brings to mind the infamous incident under a tamarind tree at Thammasat University in October 1976, as captured, in the Pulitzer Prize winning photos of American photojournalist Neil Ulevich.
Teerawat “Ka-ge” Mulvilai, co-founder and co-artistic director of B-Floor Theatre, however, is quick to refute any suggestion that he is recreating the incident in his new play although he equally admits to being inspired by it.
That’s evident from the opening scene when, as the audience settles into their seats, two performers walk back and forth cleaning the floor with their mops in front of a row of white-and-orange-striped barricades. We’ve seen these barricades too often recently, not in road construction but street demonstrations, or battles between opposing forces of those in power and others who’d lost it, in our long quest for –what we believe is – democracy. These barriers are deftly, fully and variedly used in this physical theatre work, instigating our thoughts both literally and figuratively. In fact, in a rare moment of comic relief, reference was also made to salmon, and its white and orange stripes, which whetted my appetite and less than an hour after the performance I found myself in a sushi restaurant.
Visual images created by physical movements and voices of 13 performers – of whom only one is a |B-Floor core member – are well supported by Kamolpat Pimsarn’s sound design, which includes |many familiar elements. Pavinee Samakabutr’s lighting design, which also makes use of the |structure of the audience stand to create shadows, also plays a |strong supporting role as do Nicha Puranasamriddhi’s costumes, which remind us that uniformity is never equivalent to unity. 
It’s indeed another case of actions speaking louder than words. The energy of the acting ensemble never wanes and their unity never fades, although the movement skills and quality of some members are weaker than others. These actions take us back not four decades ago to October 1976, but rather to what has been repeatedly taking place afterwards. At a city centre venue easily accessible by public transportation namely Bangkok Art and Culture Centre’s (BACC) 4th floor studio, “Fundamental” is also evidence that physical theatre remains one of the most efficient means to exercise freedom of speech in this country. 
With scenes of chaos and violence interspersed with those of – what’s supposed to be – harmony and peace, “Fundamental” might make you feel that you get all the messages they want to convey in the first 30 minutes. However, like the subject matter itself, if all of us had already understood it, we wouldn’t still be redrafting our constitution.
Our social media behaviour and our government policy on freedom of speech prove that we haven’t learned a basic principle of |democracy – which is simply to agree to disagree and to value different opinions – and we only |want to see and hear what we think we would concur with. Ten years from now, if “Fundamental” is restaged with its current form |and content, it might well be equally relevant. 
- As part of BACC’s 5th Performative Art Festival, B-Floor Theatre’s “Fundamental” continues at BACC’s 4th floor studio (BTS: National Stadium) from Wednesday to Saturday at 7.30pm, and Sunday at 3pm. 
- Vist,  or call (089) 167 4039. 
- Another theatre production commemorating October 6 is Anatta Theatre Group’s “A Nowhere Place”. It shows Thursday to Sunday, and October 6-9 at Crescent Moon Space (BTS: Thong Lor). 
- Call (094) 492 4424. 

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