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Big gulps of beauty
Publication Date : 03-07-2012
An exciting New York-bound new work and a timely restage come to Bangkok's stages this weekend
B-Floor Theatre, now in its 13th season, is all set to complete its political trilogy. "Oxygen", which opens this week, follows on from 2010's highly acclaimed "Flu-O-Less-Sense" and last year's "Fool Alright".
Teerawat "Ka-ge" Mulvilai, one of the company's co-founders who's directing this trilogy, says that after he explored "the chaotic political situation in Bangkok that led to violence and tragedy in May 2010" in "Flu-O-Less-Sense", and "the structures of Thailand's democracy" in "Fool Alright", the time has come to "take oxygen as a metaphor for freedom and liberty in a democratic society".
"The idea came from the phrase 'Every Move We Make is Political'. I asked myself: 'If every breath we take triggers our movement, what kind of air are we inhaling? How does it affect our actions? What are we accepting into our system that defines who we are?'
"Horrifying political acts are taking places all around the world, but it's the growing movements stemming from desire for change and for a better future that interest me. These movements are against the corruption and injustice that have led to social and economic inequality, and I see them as connected to the fact that the citizens who are now suffering have become strangers to their own governments. They remind me of the protests against war in the 1960s, when the voices of people asking for justice and freedom grew louder and louder, until change was finally achieved.
"I'm interested in these people's ideals, because even through we may be living in a different era, we still seem to be facing the same kind of oppression - having to survive in a system over which we have little control. I think we have to join hands to create change, rather than accept our conditions. If we believe that the power of the people is greater than the power of government and institutions, then we should believe that we're the ones who should be in control of our own lives."
As a physical theatre work, Ka-ge says that "Oxygen" is "more abstract" than the previous two works in the trilogy, and adds that it's not necessary to have seen the other two to fully breathe in this "Oxygen".
After a limited run in Bangkok, "Oxygen" will be part of the Undergroundzero experimental theatre festival in New York City later this month, after which the company will join a workshop with the world-renowned theatre artist Ping Chong, then stage another work "Taste of Curry". The invitation, though, didn't come with plane tickets for the 12-strong cast and B-Floor is still very short of travel money. So buying tickets for the upcoming production of "Oxygen" is a opportunity to support them.
Also opening this week is a restaging of Theatre 8X8's "Beauty to Hell", Silpathorn artist Nikorn Saetang's adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's "An Enemy of the People".
"This is the play that opened at our former studio theatre [near Sam Yan market] 8X8 Corner many years ago and later toured many campuses," says Nikorn, who adapted the modern classic by keeping only its three main characters and following in part the Norwegian playwright's original plot.
In a village whose One Tambon One Product beauty-enhancing food product is entering the world market, a man is trying to warn of its side effects on the neural system and stop production. This is of course against the will of other villagers who are enjoying its commercial success and thus he's risking the safety of his family members.
"That was the time when Thailand's most famous fugitive rose to power. Back then, the audience enjoyed that these characters were voicing what they wanted to say yet didn't dare say.
"Now that the issue of commercial benefits are more obvious than before and that majority votes play an important part in so many debates and arguments, the storyline is even more relevant, so I didn't have to further adapt the script. I've been wanting to restage it since last year's elections."
Despite its strong political messages, Nikorn considers it a play that deals with our "morals" rather than "politics and benefits".
The new cast includes veteran actresses like Duangjai Hiransri and Sumontha Suanpholrat, in addition to new members of Theatre 8X8 - "some of them watched our recent works and asked if they could join the next production," says Nikorn.
"Oxygen" opens on Thursday and runs at 7.30 nightly until July 16 (except Tuesday and Wednesday) at the Pridi Banomyong Institute on Soi Thong Lor.
"Beauty to Hell" runs from Friday to Sunday and from July 13 to 16 at Democrazy Theatre Studio in Soi Saphan Khu, Rama IV Road.
Language is not a barrier for either show: "Oxygen" is made for New York audiences and "Beauty" has English subtitles.