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Knee deep in paranoia

Our favourite comedic characters (and actors) are back

Publication Date : 15-06-2012


Twenty years ago, DASS Entertainment's playwright Daraka Wongsiri and director Suwandee Jakravoravudh introduced Thai theatre audiences to "Tuen Tuek" ("Old Maids"), a comedy about a group of university friends, still single at 30 plus and likely to remain so, despite successful professional lives.

The newest tale in their ongoing saga "Tuen Tuek IV" opens next week at M Theatre in Bangkok and is subtitled "Flood Phobia (Paranoia)".

Unlike in the wake of the 2011 Japanese nuclear disaster, which saw contemporary Japanese theatre voicing several opinions and thoughts in response to Fukushima, there have been far too few Thai stage works dealing with flood: only Nophand Boonyai's "Therapy (After the Flood)" and Babymime's "Yim Su Flood".

"I think last year we all suffered from the flood on various levels and it has taken time for us, as theatre artists, to consider the angles from which we should approach this national issue properly, says Suwandee. "Earlier this year, when we'd just got through the disaster, many of us might have voiced our anger. But now, we've found another way to look at it.

"The characters in 'Tuen Tuek' are a group of middle-class people who represent many of us who were affected by the flood, directly and indirectly. Even though not all their houses were inundated, they suffered from various degrees of paranoia—just like us."

Many audience members still have fond memories of the original "Tuen Tuek", the script of which has been studied at several campuses as a prime example of satirical comedy, and which give rise to the tagline "Good men are only those who're dead".

The sequel came out in 2008, by which time DASS had become Dreambox and Bangkok Playhouse had evolved into M Theatre. "Tuen Tuek II" saw one of the characters married to a man disliked by all her friends, though they changed their minds later. In "One Night in Tokyo", which followed last year, another one of the group found out that he had unintentionally fathered a son in the Japan capital.

For "Tuen Tuek IV", Atcharapan Paiboonsuwan, Thitima Sangkapitak, Pha-oon Chandrasiri, Sirinuch Petch-urai, Wasan Uttamayothin, Kanokwan Buranon, Waraphan Ngui-trakul, Phol Tantasatien and Methanee Buranasiri return to the roles we love to see them perform. They are joined by guests Pawanrat Naksuriya and Piya Sawetpikul who play a telepathy expert and her assistant.

Suwandee says, "Working with them is, of course, easier than before as they've already mastered the characters and relationships. And so we're working mainly on the interpretation of the new script, the comedic pace and the delivery of lines. The problem is that they're all professional actors on TV so it's quite difficult to schedule rehearsals. But being veterans, they pick up what they miss very fast and we're having a ball right now."

As to the content, Suwandee points out that Daraka's script shows how paranoia can lead to many problems and the audience will learn how they can use conscience to get over this.

"Some provinces have already been flooded this year, and so Bangkokians are wondering whether history will repeat itself. I'm not sure whether this is an omen of 'Tuen Tuek' — the earthquake and tsunami hit northeastern Japan the day after 'Tuen Tuek III: One Night in Tokyo' opened," she says.

"Tuen Tuek IV" opens next Friday (June 22) and runs through Sunday, and again from June 29 to July 1 at M Theatre on New Phetchaburi Road (between Thonglor and Ekamai).



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