By Pawit Mahasarinand
Special to The Nation
When I was a kid, I used to wonder whether it was possible that the national children’s day could last longer than the second Saturday in January. There were so many fun activities at each venue that it was always impossible for any kid, myself included, to enjoy them all in one day – and it was difficult to choose just one venue to visit each year. I also used to wonder if my mum and dad were having as much fun as I was, or if they felt that it was their duty to accompany me to these events just because it was “my day”.
Two years ago when I was attending Arts on Location and Democrazy Theatre Studio’s inaugural Bangkok International Children’s Theatre Festival, or “BICT Fest”, as part of the fifth Performative Art Festival (PAF) at Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC), I found the answers to these questions – a few decades late of course.
“The Rice Child” by Crescent Moon Theatre :Photo/BICT Fest
Images of kids and adults spending quality time at performances, workshops and activities are fond memories that are still fresh. And now the biannual festival is back again as part of BACC’s seventh PAF, with more international and local partners and supporters, and a programme line-up at a greater number of venues that’s even more exciting.
Since the end of her successful first festival, festival director Adjjima Na Patalung has been attending children’s theatre festivals, mostly in East Asia and Europe, and she notes: “The amount of support from both private and public sectors for these festivals there, of course, isn’t available here and so we have to work in very different conditions.
“That said, I learned a lot from the Imaginate Festival in Edinburgh, and it’s now evolved into the Edinburgh International Children’s Festival. It’s evident that they’re not just presenting works for children and adults. With different kinds of workshops, discussions and forums, they’re also focusing on creative development – not only on how artists create works but also how they can best engage their target audience. Some of the issues discussed there include whether the adult artists are self-censoring when it comes to children’s performance taking account of the fact that children are naturally more open to new experiences and knowledge than we adults. Also, they’re wondering whether they’re too concerned with the morals in these works, making sure that the children get the pre-conceived messages or lessons instead of leaving some works open-ended.”
Primo by Alfredo Zinola and Felipe Gonzalez :Photo/Saris and den Engelsman
Adjjima notes that BICT Fest is a curated festival, not an open-call, and quality of work is one of her team’s priorities in programming.
“We always like to challenge our audience, and we always think of both children and adults at the same time,” she says.
“We’d like to show that children’s performances do not necessarily deal with simple issues and leave the young audience with certain morals. One example here is ‘Four Go Wild in Wellies’ by Scottish company Indepen-dance, two members of which have Down syndrome.”
“Horses” by kabinet k : photo/ Kurt Van der Elst
A new initiative, focusing on process rather than finished work, is the festival’s opening show “Horses”, in which the original Belgian creators kabinet k will work with Thai artists like Silpathorn artist and B-Floor’s co-artistic director Jarunun Phantachat, Pichet Klunchun Dance Company’s Sunon Wachirawarakarn and Democrazy’s Thanapol Virulhakul, as well as children selected through an open-call application process.
“Sarabande” by Noemi Boutin and Jorg Muller : Photo/ Vincent Schaub
Other international works include two nouveau cirque performances “Flaque” by Companie Defracto and “Sarabande” by Noemi Boutin and Jorg Muller, as part of the French Embassy’s “French Highlights”. Thanks to the Japan Foundation, Japanese pantomime duo Gabez will make their Thailand debut. Audiences will be amazed with “Primo” as they gather around a water tank in which two German contemporary dancers move freely – a performance that comes thanks to the support of the Goethe Institut and the German Embassy.
“Star Wars” by Babymime : photo/BICT Fest
To maintain a balance, BICT Fest also gives space on this international platform to local and regional artists, like Babymime’s audience-favourite sci-fi spoof “Star Wars”, Crescent Moon Theatre’s “The Rice Child”, and the return of Indonesia’s Paper Moon Puppet Theatre who’ll stage “Puno”, which combines puppetry and visual arts.
Apart from the performances, all participating companies will organise workshops, most of which are for adults and kids to enjoy new learning experiences together. For example, Indepen-dance’s creative dance workshop, exploring the themes of play, nature, fun, friendship and trust, at Blue Box Studio on the second floor of M Theatre, invites kids aged three to five years old along with their parents.
“Four Go Wild in Wellies” by Independance :photo/BICT Fest
In addition, BICT Fest Forum comprises a panel discussion, with international speakers including Fiona Ferguson, Imaginate’s creative development director, on the future of the international children’s theatre festival. There are also talks on such topics as “But what is the new circus?” by French cultural attache Vanessa Silvy and “Applying Circus Art in Communities” by Makhampom’s Thanupon Yindee.
In the Southeast Asian Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA) meeting, there’s also an opportunity for the public to learn about the current state of Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA) in six Southeast Asian countries as overviewed by professionals in the field, and for them to connect with their Japanese colleagues.
“This network is thanks to the ongoing support from the Wa Project of the Japan Foundation’s Asia Centre, which promotes the exchange between Japan and Southeast Asia,” Adjjima adds.
“Gabez” : photo/BICT Fest
With the ever-present financial difficulties, rumour is that this will be the last BICT Fest but Adjjima is quick to brush it off.
“We have a small core team all of whom have other theatre works all year round. Despite the increasing support from Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB) and new supporter Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), the evidence from our first festival has not been enough to win sponsorship from local businesses. The same can be said for our Ministry of Culture, despite the fact that BICT Fest is Thailand’s only festival of its kind and one of the few in the region.
“Yes, it’s sometimes discouraging but we’ll keep going of course. We’ll wait until the end of this festival to reassess, and maybe having this as a triennial, instead of biannual, festival is not a bad idea.”
Adjjima Na Patalung : photo/BICT Fest
Two years ago, I told her that I was using Disney magic spell to turn my 20-kilogramme, four-legged son into a two-legged version so that we could enjoy the next BICT Fest together. Apparently, that spell didn’t work: it only added 10 kilogrammes and failed to reduce the number of legs, but I’m still looking forward to attending this BICT Fest.
QUALITY TIME FOR ALL THE FAMILY
“Bangkok International Children’s Theatre Festival 2018” is from May 15-27 at BACC (BTS: National Stadium), Chulalongkorn University (BTS: Siam) and Creative Industries (at M Theatre, on New Phetchaburi Road, between Thong Lor and Ekamai).
For more details and tickets, go to www.BICTfest.com and Facebook.com/BICTfest.
Call (081) 441 5718, or email [email protected]