(This interview was recorded in September 2017.)
Q. What prompted you, a singer, to get involved in this project?
My main source of income is my work as a singer. I sing every day from Monday to Friday. But originally, I went overseas to study musical theater after graduating from the theater department of Bangkok University. I also have appeared on stage many times since my student days. Even after graduating, I took part in various kinds of productions.
Today as well, while continuing with my work as a singer, I audition for roles as an actress and have taken part in almost all productions for which I was given a call. Even now, I take pride in my work as an actress and reply “actress” when asked my profession.
I learned about this audition on the news. I decided to audition because I felt that a project of international collaboration which would be performed in other countries too would be a very challenging and excellent opportunity for me.
Q. What about the original novel impressed you?
I was very much taken by the way in which the element of sex was added to those of politics and art, and the three, which appear mutually distinct on the surface, were skillfully melded into a single work. But the descriptions of sexual activity are really numerous, and jolted me right from the first chapter. I realize they are an extremely important part of the work, but as the narrative proceeds, the sexual depictions become increasingly heavy, and to keep reading requires considerable strength. To be frank, I simultaneously felt an uneasiness, wondering if I would have to go this far in my own acting. In fact, I wasn’t able to thoroughly read all the parts of chapters 6 and 7, whose descriptions of sex are too intense.
Q. What about this project interested you and made you decide to participate in it?
After first getting up on a stage in 2013, I appeared in at least one work every year and also took part in a workshop for sound design, so I was interested in stage work. This piece is a product of collaboration with people outside Thailand, and I myself am a fan of Uthis Haemamool. When I heard it was a project pairing him with a Japanese director, I figured it was bound to be interesting, and so got the strong urge to participate.
Q. What is the appeal of Uthis’s works?
Uthis was originally an artist, and I think his novels are very cinematic. The language he uses is extremely pretty, and the depictions contain a wealth of detail. Inspired by Uthis, I too write books. I look up to him as an elder.
Q. What is your impression of the novel on which this work is based?
It superimposes the figure of human beings on the figures of the nation, city, and various other things. The concept of inside and outside is also intriguing. As I see it, this is a very private novel; Uthis bares everything in it. I’m not sure how much of it reflects his actual experiences, but I like the intensely passionate parts.
Q. Could you describe one memorable episode from which you strongly felt this superposition of various forms you just mentioned?
In this work, the give-and-take between the characters is connected to the political changes of the times in question. For example, there is one scene in which newly entering students with a minority opinion at Silpakorn University have no choice but to obey their seniors with the majority one, even on the campus. This bears a likeness to the pattern in which the political minorities are held in contempt by the political majority in Thailand.
Then there is the incident that grew out of the vandalizing of the statue of Silpa Bhirasri. It is a case of doing harm to people who criticize what you adore. This overlaps with things actually happening in Thai society today.
What I thought after reading this novel was that contact with someone leads to the birth of a new element in your own identity. In addition, I realized that political events, too, are shaped by the memory of previous political events, and that there is a connection with something there.
Khao Sing himself may very well be the embodiment of Thai history and the tangle of social problems confronting Thailand.
Q. Why did you conceive an interest in stage work?
When I was active as a musician, all the fans I had seemed to like the way I looked; few of them liked the music itself. I was discontent, because I thought that what I wanted to say as a musician was not reaching the audience. But when appearing in theatrical works on the stage, all of what you want to convey reaches the audience because they are spending money and time to see the works. And you can have the audience see you as you want to be seen.
I believe that, if you do something with integrity, someone will understand what you are trying to say.
Q. On this day, the sixth since the start of rehearsals, the rehearsal covered the whole work, from Chapter 1 to Chapter 6, for the first time. What is your impression so far?
The project is on a large scale, and every day is a string of discoveries.
I do not have such a big role, but by spending time with the other actors, the awareness of being part of a single team seems to be getting stronger by the day.
Q. Did your impression of the work change from when you first read the novel and now, when you are rehearsing for its adaptation?
When I first read the novel, I felt it was a very personal one. I myself had to be in a private space and concentrate to read it.
At that time, I could not have imagined how this novel could be adapted for the stage, but as the rehearsals progress while taking up different scenes, I am getting a new perspective and feeling about it.
Q. What scenes in the novel struck you? Were there any things you could not empathize with?
The description of sex from the man’s viewpoint was interesting to me. I felt as if I were getting a glimpse into the mind of the man during sexual activity.
There is a fairly good agreement of opinion between me and Uthis (Haemamool), so I really empathized with the political views and depiction of social phenomena in the novel.
It is not a work in which the author simply tries to get the reader to swallow his political outlook. Instead, the novel attempts to awaken the reader to other outlooks at the same time. When you read it, you get the feeling it is asking you various questions.
I thought the novel was outstanding for its intertwining of sex and politics as two different aspects. The similarity between sexual excitement and political excitement never occurred to me before, and I found it fascinating.
Q. What is your orientation for the future?
As a theatrical producer, I would like to link the theater scene in Thailand with that in other countries. I believe that works of Thai theater have a level of quality that can stand comparison even with those in other countries, so I would like to see them staged more outside Thailand.
When we in B-Floor Theater create works in collaboration with people who are not from Thailand, I generally play the role of producer and contact person. In the past, I once created a project of collaboration myself and brought it to fruition. Sometimes, other people reach out to me for collaboration that leads to a show.
As for the future outlook, I would like to invite violence-related works from three countries to Bangkok and have them performed at a festival. I am taking aim at holding this festival toward the end of 2019, but I realize I would have to see that the schedule does not conflict with that for this project.
Q. What are your expectations for this project?
Right now, I am just looking forward to the performance, and my excitement about it is running even higher than any expectations of mine. This will be the first time for me to tour other countries with a play, and I feel as if one of my dreams is coming true.
Up until now, almost all the projects in which I have taken part have been short-term ones. I am therefore really happy to be able to participate in a long-term project.
Q. Are you staging works in your own theatre at present?
I handled the script and direction tasks for the latest work. I do not act in it. I am acting in “Pratthana – A Portrait of Possession,” but I have almost never acted in any works at my own theater. The latest work tells the story of three youths alive in mutually different generations. I got the idea from historical fact based on the career of Chip Misak, who is famous in Thailand, as well as the anime “Mobile Suit Gundam” and Japanese board games. It describes how the three attempt to break the rules.
Q. Tell us about your background in theater or as an artist so far.
I majored in cinema at the mass Communications department of Thammasat University.I began to lean toward theater after taking part in a drama circle in my university days. Through this circle, I became acquainted with artists off the campus and was inspired by them. This solidified my desire to continue with theater even after graduation, and I established Splashing Theater. We are currently staging our sixth work as a theater company.
Q. What impressed you about the novel on which the work is based?
I was struck by the way that the font changed at the end of Chapter 5. In the same chapter, I was particularly taken by the scene in which Waree shows herself masturbating in the video communication, at the order of Khao Sing. I could sympathize with the feeling of being forced to do something against your will because of no other choice. As for the political end, we have recently experienced it and could easily understand it. I was wondering how it would be if the scenes mixing politics and sex were made into a movie, when the idea of scenes changing like a montage floated up in my mind. I read the book all the way through, and felt both a fatigue and sense of release after reading it. For me, it was a new experience.