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When the cobra sings
Publication Date : 21-09-2012
Often used as a metaphor to describe a deceptive and treacherous person, the snake takes on a slightly different erotic analogy in "Mae Bia", being used to personify sexual immorality.
"Mae bia, or the cobra, is like a caretaker keeping an eye on those who enjoy an immoral relationship. We hope that people who watch the musical will understand the element of immorality and not come because they expect to see erotic love scenes," says Kreingkarn Kanjanapokin, co-chief executive officer of Index Creative Village, the producer of what is being billed as an "erotic art musical".
Based on the novel by Vanich Jarungkij-anant, "Mae Bia" was adapted for TV by Kantana in 1992 with Yuranan Pamornmontri and Sangrawee Atsawalak in the leading roles. Ten years later, it was brought to the big screen in Somching Srisupap's horror romance starring with Akara Amarttayakul as Chanachol and Napakpapha "Mamee" Nakprasitte as Mekhala, the snake lady.
Now it comes to the musical stage, with Tapanut "George" Sattayanurak as Chanachol. Ratha "Ying" Po-ngam - currently burning up the big screen in the remake of the erotic drama "Jan Dara" - is Mekhala. And Chanachol's wife Mai Kaew is played by Primorata "Jaja" Dejudom.
The story begins when Chanachol comes back to Thailand from overseas and signs up for a tour to get back in touch with Thai culture. He finds himself attracted to the tour guide Mekhala. But there are several problems with the relationship: Chanachol is married with a family and Mekhala has a mysterious, symbiotic relationship with a deadly cobra, and many of her previous suitors have ended up dead.
"Mekhala is the daughter of her father's fourth wife. She's grown up seeing him alternately beat his wives and make love to them and of course this has had a profound effect on her character," explains Kreingkarn.
Both TV and film versions are remembered for the scene showing Mekhala lazily raising her sarong to cover her naked breasts while grinding a coconut. That won't be repeated in the musical but the audience will get to see plenty of love scenes thanks to some high-tech gizmos, among them a kind of vertical bed.
"Mae Bia", which is costing Bt30 million to stage, is Index Creative Village's second musical after the Bt40-million "Rak Ther Samer: The Musical", which featured 4D effects.
"In 'Rak Ther Samer', we used computer-generated graphics to set a restaurant scene in New York's Rockefeller Plaza complete with its famous ice-skating rink and in another, we had the actor and actress meeting on the top of the torch at the Statue of Liberty," Kreingkarn says.
"In 'Mae Bia', Poj, another of Mekhala's lovers, dies in a boating accident, I wanted it to be a very cruel accident so we've designed a scene where Poj is semi-conscious because of the cobra's poison. In his hallucination, a tree turns into a cobra, which strangles him while in fact it is a vine that is tangled round his neck.
"For the striking lovemaking scene in the water, we use two large pieces of moving cloth to represent the water while showing the love scene on video. We shot the lovemaking scene underwater though so it looks very real.
"Obviously, we're not using a real cobra in the musical but its shadow and hiss and even the breathing sound very lifelike. Sound design plays a very important role in this musical," Kreingkarn says.
More than 20 songs have been composed. The show also features two hits - Songsit "Kob" Roongnophakunsri's "Term Hai Tem" and Mai Charoenpura's "Sia Jai Dai Yin Mai", both of which will be sung by Mai Kaew.
"New songs are hard to promote which is why we've added the hits. I remember watching the musical 'Jersey Boys', a documentary-style show based on Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. During the performance, I looked around and saw how happy the audience was to hear such memorable oldies as 'Can’t Take My Eyes Off You' and 'Stay'," recalls Kreingkarn.
"The musical is roughly divided into two separate ambiences. For the scenes at Mekhala's house, the background sounds will feature Thai musical instruments such as the ranad and khim. When it moves to the condo in the city, the music is more modern, with several songs arranged with a Lady Gaga accent," says Aekpong Cherdtham, 38, former drummer with Crescendo, who was the arranger on "Rak Ther Samer" and has composed much of the music for "Mae Bia".
"Bang Sing Thi Phid" performed by Techin Chayuti is being used to promote "Mae Bia". In the musical, it will be sung by Mekhala.
"She sings it when she becomes aware that she's done wrong. She wants to stop her behaviour," says Aekpong. "Basically, 'Mae Bia' is about lechery and sex. Each of characters knows that it is immoral."
"Mae Bia" is at M Theatre on New Petchaburi Road in Bangkok from September 28 to October 14.