ASIA NEWS NETWORK
WE KNOW ASIA BETTER
A royal play raised high
Publication Date : 17-12-2012
Patravadi Mejudhon's Sanook Express is charging ahead full speed at her enchanted Vic Hua Hin, where her arts-imbued high school, shortly to be joined by a new elementary school and university for the arts, is the focus for enlightenment in both education and dramatic performance.
The latest show, "Viva Phra Samut" ("The Marriage of Neptune"), illuminates Patravadi's penchant for combining both activities. A host of now-successful former students came to perform but also learn more, while her whole school, where arts are a means to learn about life and become good citizens, participated in putting it together.
It seems like no other high-school production - the show is entirely professional and proceeds at a breathtaking pace, packed out with dazzling music, dance and wit.
King Rama VI wrote "Viva Phra Samut" to get people thinking about how to make difficult social choices and to encourage international diplomacy. But Patravadi says performances of the play have become stale and boring.
"It was a challenge for me. I'm very attached to Rama VI because my mother was in his court and my aunt was the first pianist in this country working for him. And I just thought I must do something fun with this script without changing it and show people that he was a great writer and that his play is full of meaning for this country."
Patravadi's production goes at an exhilarating pace, anything but boring. The stage is alive with colour and movement, directed with sergeant-major precision. A crisp-sounding band that includes Patravadi's 16-year-old drummer grandson, Patrakorn Patalavit, plays the snappy new score by Anant Nakkong.
The story presents three potential candidates for the hand of Princess Andromeda. Andre and Constantinos are willing to play tricks to get her, yet would be decent mates but, according to local tradition, to save everyone else from disaster, the Princess absolutely has to wed a Chinaman with a pigtail, who's thought to be a sea god.
Kanant Viranarong as Andre and Piyavit Kantasin as Andre's helper Keril are wonderfully lively and produce great music, the former on ukulele and the latter on violin. They are in fact musicians but wanted to learn to act, says Patravadi. They certainly learned quickly - their acting is lively and with spot-on coordination.
Kantana Phusakit as Christantinos is a trained tenor who teaches singing at Patravadi's school. He too wanted to develop his acting skills and appears alongside the sole current student in the production, Ananchai Tovichen, as Johannes. They also shine in their precision and energy.
Wannasak Sirilar is hilarious as the stereotypical Chinaman. Saravut Martthong has excellent projection as the weighty British sea captain who finally saves the day. Kirit Chaisinraboon, as the priest Christopher, deliciously conveys single-minded stubbornness. Pichaya Kemasingki offers a struggling King Midas unprepared to block his daughter's sacrifice. And Patravadi herself shows that her body can still flow across the stage gracefully as a grand matron taking tea with the captain.
High-school kids are all over the stage, but under such tight direction and discipline that nothing ever seems less than professional. I loved the crowd dancing with fluttering butterfly cut-outs. And the quickstep soldiers were a blast, as were the girls with their twirling flower-covered hoops. This, then, is an evening of effervescent, larger-than-life joy.
The joy, however, comes at the cost of introspection. The one really great - and horribly tragic - human moment is when Christantinos discovers he has lost his bride to his rival and is reduced to tortured anguish. The moment passes quickly. I got the impression that Patravadi preferred not to take her schoolkids too deeply into the dark side of human behaviour. But is one of great acting, and I was torn between lively cardboard cut-outs and deeper glimpses of the soul.
The latter view was underlined by the troubling sight of a foreign sea captain deciding who should marry the princess. Her passive role and a woman's ability and right to make her own choice are not issues to be mulled here.
Don't let this deter you, though. The production is simply too sharp, energetic and completely delightful to miss.
There are two more performances of "Viva Phra Samut", on Saturday and on December 29, at 7.30pm. Visit www.VicHuaHin.com.