Actor Interview VOL.1

(This interview was recorded in September 2017.)

Jarunun Phantachat 

Q. What were your thoughts after hearing about the conception and overall vision of this project?

I thought it was going to be a challenging project for both the director and the team, because it is on the basis of a long-term plan.

The background of the original novel has cultural elements unique to Thailand, and I was a little worried about how a Japanese director would interpret them. I was reassured to learn that Okada was attempting to create this work as one that would have a universality enabling it to be understood by other people, regardless of their country or standpoint.

Q. Please tell us what features of the novel made an impression on you.

I belong to the same generation as Uthis, and met him when I performed at Silpakorn University right after my graduation. At that time, Uthis was a curator at Silpakorn University.

The gallery that appears in Chapter 2 in the description of the art university days was in fact the first place I worked after graduating from the university. I actually know the gallery people there.

I entered the art world in the same period as Uthis, so my memory overlaps with the novel’s depiction of the days in the art university. It took me back to the atmosphere of those times and even the smells in the air then.

There were many other spots that dovetailed with my actual experience.The incident described in Chapter 1 that occurred in May 1992 happened when I was a high school student and I remember the TV news about it. My love at that time, who was also ahead of me in the university, went missing after taking part in a demonstration. He turned up about two months later, but quit school.

Q. What sort of message did you sense in the work?

I felt the author’s anger and the deep sadness lurking at the bottom of it. I felt as if something inside was broken.

It seemed to me that the meaning of the sexual activity in the work changed as the story progressed.

In the second half, it occurred to me that the characters engaged in sex more as a medium to feel something than for pleasure.

I thought this was particularly true in the case of the sex after the 2010 incident.

Q. What sort of works are you creating?

I began directing around 2008 or 2009, and have changed the shape of my works with every staging. After hearing how the performance of actors themselves changes with the reaction of the audience, I have constantly been creating works that have the element of interaction with the audience.

In the first work I created, members of the audience were given red peppers, sugar, and various other kinds of spices and foodstuffs. The items that each audience member thought was interesting were put into a soup. At the end, we all ate the resulting soup together. The flavor of the soup was different each time.

I am now working on a revival of a previous piece (*September 2017, when this interview was taken). The theater is likened to the country, and the audience are asked to determine the country’s future during the performance.

Pavinee Samakkabutr 

Q. How were the 10 days of rehearsal you took part in?

I think of it as a kind of test aimed at helping Okada, the director, achieve the ideas inside his brain. It remains to be seen how Okada will digest the inspiration he received from this test, and whether the script will follow the novel or become more original as a result.

The work mixes the two themes of sexual desire and politics. I couldn’t tell at the rehearsal stage how these different elements will be interwoven with each other and put on the stage, but I have the feeling that the work is going to be a magnificent one.

Q. After reading the novel, what are your thoughts on it?

Reading the novel deepened my understanding of the incidents and political perspectives in each period. I suspect that the power relationships between the characters in the novel are metaphors for those between political principals. For example, consider the scene in which the protagonist, Khao Sing tries to manipulate Naam, one of the characters who belongs to the different social class from Khao Sing. He is attempting to heighten his own stature by controlling someone else. I have not yet clearly figured out the relationship between Rak Chao, another one of the characters, and Khao Sing, but I think that, Khao Sing’s relations with another person collapse when there is an element he cannot control himself. I sensed a political innuendo in the breakdown of the ties between the two when Rak Chao’s thinking changed.

Q. What is the concept behind the organization/group Democrazy Theatre (of which Ae was one of the co-founders)?

At the time of Democrazy’s founding, it was the general view in Thailand that to watch performing arts was a special occasion. We wanted to change this and making performing arts something ordinary that could be seen any time. After three or four years of activity, this has been accomplished to a certain extent. So now, we want to improve the quality of the works in order to create pieces that will really have an influence on Thai society.

As a further aspiration, we would like Democrazy Theatre to become a group whose members could take action while sharing the same mission. For an artist, the question of how to sustain your own activities is a key issue. First, we would like to elevate the position of artists in Thai society and promote the advancement of performing arts in Thailand. In my view, what is important to this end is not the output but the process of creation. For economic reasons, we cannot spend a lot of time on preparations. But if you cannot spend a lot of time on creation, you cannot create quality works or develop the related human resources. That’s why our immediate priority is to find a way to have enough time.

Teerawat Mulvilai 

Q. What were your thoughts after hearing about the conception and overall vision of this project?

It struck me as a very ambitious project. Almost all of the contemporary Thai works staged outside Thailand are pieces of physical theater, dance, or other works without any lines or dialogue. I am therefore delighted that a work like this, which is also a record of Thai politics, society, and the times, is going to be staged in other countries.

Over the last 15 years, there have been four military coups in Thailand. Uthis, too, talks about there not being any way out. I have high hopes this work will be an extremely meaningful one that conveys the realities of Thailand to people around the world.

Q. You serve as the director of B-floor Theatre. What is its style of theater?

I created a trilogy of works in response to the killing of 99 members of the Red Shirts in May 2010.

The first, “Flu-O-Less-Sense,” takes up Big Cleaning Day, a clean-up event that is held on a large scale at regular intervals in Thai cities. We staged it at Democrazy Theatre Studio in June 2010. It was followed by “Fool Alright,” the second opus in the trilogy. This was staged in 2011. It probes the internal situation in Thailand for the causes of the violence against the Red Shirts. The third work, “Oxygen,” depicts the current impasse in Thailand without an exit, and was staged in 2012.

I might add that I created two works on the theme of the kinds of problems which censorship causes for artistic expression. In preparation for them, I researched the relationship between the arts and censorship in Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Indonesia, and Japan.

Other works of mine are “Ice Bark” and “Red Tank.” “Ice Bark” examines the process that makes ordinary people into criminals. “Red Tank” deals with what actually happened to some people who suddenly went missing. The government and police killed them and hid the bodies by putting them into a red tank.

Q. What audience would you like to see this work?

I would like ordinary people living in Bangkok to see it. There are also many people abroad who have an interest in Thailand’s contemporary history and the current situation. I am hoping this work will be a kind of window through which people outside Thailand can learn more about the country.