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Saying it on the stage

Andrew Lloyd Webber

Publication Date : 04-01-2013


Musicals, drama, contemporary dance, opera and much more to treat Thai audiences this year


It may be making the biggest splash in term of publicity, but Andrew Lloyd Webber's "The Phantom of the Opera", opening at the Muangthai Rachadalai Theatre in early May, is far from the only production being staged to Thailand this year. It is, however, the most expensive, with ticket prices setting a new high of 5,500 baht (US$180) - more expensive than both Broadway and West End.

In addition to the foreign touring production of "Phantom", there are plenty of other musicals set to grace the Bangkok state.

After the success of 2012's "Neung Nai Duangchai", JSL is continuing their jukebox musical on the Suntharaphorn songbook with "Thoe Thaonan", opening late this month. The restaging of "Langkha Daeng", originally scheduled for the same period, has now been cancelled.

Dreambox and Scenario have yet to reveal their line-ups but Index Creative Village is returning with "Hom Rong" and Nation Multimedia's Mango TV will follow up the commercial success of "Reya" with not one but two musicals this year.

After the negative reception to "Rak Ha Hok Sao" and many troubles with "Lamsing Singer", Fat Radio and GTH may have realised they should just stick to what they do best - concerts and movies, respectively.

Despite the much less attention from the media and the public, the smaller stages will not contribute less.

B-Floor Theatre kicks off the year with "Survival Games" next Thursday.

The Asean Economic Community zeitgeist kicks in on January 19 at the Sodsai Pantoomkomol Centre for Dramatic Arts with "Our Roots Right Now", a 10-day conference and festival featuring 31 dance and theatre performances and 13 workshops from seven Southeast Asian countries, plus India and China, though the majority are of course from Thailand.

The Pichet Klunchun Dance Company stages the Thai debut of "Tam Kai", adapted from "Lilit Phra Lo", and there will also be works that are travelling to festivals in Europe and the US like Indian contemporary dancer Sujata Goel's "Dancing Girl" and Singaporean performance artist Daniel K's "Q&A". The festival's closer is "Fire Fire Fire", a triple bill of new works by Cambodia's Sophiline Cheam Shapiro, Indonesia's Eko Supriyanto and Pichet as part of the Goethe Institut's Tanzconnexions project.

Bangkok University's "World Symposium on Southeast Asian Performing Arts", from February 1 to 3, is also presenting cutting edge works, among them Briton Sara Rubidge's interactive performance installation. Portugal-based Patricia Correa's performance art as well as veteran director Pannasak Sukhee's highly anticipated musical theatre adaptation of SEA Write Award-winning novel "Kham Phiphaksa" by Chart Kobjitti.

On February 5, the Thailand Centre of International Association of Theatre Critics (IATC) will present, for the first time ever, awards recognising achievements in plays, musicals and dance works from 2011.

Then, from February 7 to 9, at the Scala cinema, the British Council will show how artists are creating performance-based works today in the UK by commissioning the Forest Fringe to create a micro-festival of performances, installations and films.

Tim Etchells, the artistic director of the globally renowned theatre company Forced Entertainment, is creating a new installation work for this festival. Lebanese artist Tania El Khoury will present "Jarideh" ("Newspaper"), a spy film-inspired one-on-one performance in which a performer and an audience members are partners in crime. Thailand's B-Floor Theatre and Messy Gallery will also join this fun fest. Mark your calendar and expect the unexpected.

In March, the Japan Foundation and the Agency for Cultural Affairs will present the Asia premiere, outside Japan, of "Grandslam" by all-male dance company Condors. In the same month, the Goethe Institut's Tanzconnexions project will commission a new work by 18 Monkeys Dance Theatre and also present "Matkot", a dance theatre piece about beach culture by Total Brutal from Berlin.

La Fete, the French-Thai cultural festival, returns from May to June, with a new artistic director. It will open with a surprise that shows true collaboration between the two countries, a French opera staged by Thai company NUNi (Never Underestimate New ideas), featuring a French soprano and accompanied by the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra.

Other highlights are "Yo Gee Ti", a collaboration between Cie Kafig and Taiwan's National Chiang Kai-Shek Cultural Centre, which showcases how choreographer Mourad Merzouki has found common ground between hip-hop and modern dance; and the excitingly titled contemporary dance "Erection", a collaboration between renowned French choreographers Pierre Rigal and Aurelien Bory.

Not much has been revealed for the second half of the year, but we know that the 15th Bangkok's International Festival of Dance and Music will be from September to October at Thailand Cultural Centre. The Brazilian ambassador has revealed globe-trotting contemporary dance company Grupo Corpo will be performing.

The Bangkok Theatre Network has not officially announced when and where their 11th Bangkok Theatre Festival will take place but there are hopes it will return to the usual November slot, with free performances on the weekends at the Santi Chaiprakan Park, where it started.

Other ticketed shows will be staged in small theatre studios around the city like B-Floor Room, Blue Box Studio, Crescent Moon Space and Democrazy Theatre Studio where we can watch performances year-round.

A new venue that should add to the convenience of theatregoers is the studio on the fourth floor of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, which is reserving August to December for stage works. But let's hope that the centre can stay open later than 9pm, or some shows may have to start at 6.

Here's to a happy 2013 in the theatres.


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