Tuesday, 7 April 2009
Something else - reveiw
Of love, loss and something else
Review by Amitha Amranand
Bangkok Post, Outlook
April 1, 2009
Experimentation with the spectator’s experience in the theatre and defiance against linear narrative are still rare in Thailand. Shows that toy with the performer-audience interaction and the narrativestill stir curiosity and excitement as they are still considered something fresh and daring in Bangkok.
Physical theatre group B-floor Theatre has been experimenting with and foregoing linear narrative for years. However, by labeling itself “physical theatre”, viewers go to their shows expecting something different, something less talkative than the usual offerings without them having to advertise their own deviation from the scene.
As a number of the company’s founding members come from the Crescent Moon Theatre, the majority of B-floor’s oeuvre comprises creations with strong social and political awareness and messages. Through their work, the Bangkok audiences get glimpses of rural struggles that spill over into the urban spaces – glimpses of problems beyond the borders of Bangkok and themselves.
B-Floor’s year-long 10th anniversary celebration kicked off with Teerawat Mulvilai’s San-Dan-Ka, a butoh performance and a critique on the behaviour of Buddhist monks. This past Sunday, Dujdao Vadhanapakorn’s directorial debut, Something Else, ended its two-weekend run.
And the first-time director offered Bangkok something else indeed. Walking into the Crescent Moon Space, you already had to take careful steps as not to slip on a floor of tiny Styrofoam balls. Our seats were lined with cushions stuffed with the same material that covered the stage area. Hanging from the ceiling down to our seats were plastic toy binoculars. The theatre became a playful, touchable, fun and beautiful space.
Dujdao enters and speaks to us directly: “Isn’t it infuriating when others don’t understand you?” And what follows are a series of quirky and whimsical physical actions and scenes that try to make sense of love and the feelings that occupy us in the absence of love.
Something Else is about perception – the way we perceive ourselves, the way others perceive us, and the discrepancy between the two viewpoints. Dujdao plays with the idea of perception through the actions of the performers, which are dictated by the actions taking place on the camera. These actions include live drawing, live typing of instructions, questions and esoteric theories that explain the psyche of the characters being rendered by the performers on-stage. The performers and the projected images are not merely reflections of one another, they have a live and interactive relationship. The audience were sometimes pulled into the performance and asked to share their perception of the actions in front of them through drawing or merely just taking a closer look.
Dujdao’s choreography possesses an abundance of personality and adventurous spirit. The manners in which the performers handle their own and each other’s bodies seem to erase the gender lines. Clothes are donned and shed in front of our eyes. (There is no nudity in the show.) Performers dress themselves, as well as each other. They plant kisses on one another’s mouth perfunctorily and innocuously. Their physical communication and contact were not as intimate as they were comfortable and trusting. You usually don’t get to see this kind of physical closeness and ease among Thai theatre performers, not even when the plays and the roles demand them to be physically intimate.
Intentionally or not we do not know, but Something Else illuminates the politics of the body in Thai culture by challenging not only physical boundaries but also personal space.