Bangkok Post reviews
- Writer: Bangkok Post Editorial
- Published: October 17, 2013 at 8:07 am
A new play hits on a sweet spot in the Siamese Revolution
Pavinee Samakkabutr plays Ploen, a character inspired by the life story of Thanpuying Phoonsuk Banomyong.
The year 1932, or 2475 by the Buddhist calendar, is marked by a number of Thais as one of the greatest changes in Thailand's political history _ the Siamese Revolution that transformed the government system from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional one.
For veteran director Pradit Prasartthong of Anatta Theatre Troupe, however, what interests him is the story of love during this turbulent, revolutionary time.
Currently staged at Democrazy Theatre Studio, his latest work 2475 The Musical is inspired by the story of Thanpuying Phoonsuk Banomyong, the wife of former Thai Prime Minister Pridi Banomyong. Pridi was the leader of the civilian faction, the People's Party, or Khana Ratsadon, who carried out the revolution which ended 150 years of absolute monarchy.
The musical is set during a specific period of her life when her husband had to flee the country after a failure in staging a pro-democracy coup d'etat against Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram's dictatorship and when her son was imprisoned.
The real starting point of this production, however, was neither the figure of Thanpuying Phoonsuk nor the political event.
Pradit says it started from the discussion between him and one of Democrazy Theatre Studio founders about the idea of producing a musical. This made Pradit think of a traditional Thai musical, which was especially popular then.
A scene from 2475 The Musical.
"At that time the traditional Thai musical was a very popular form of entertainment," Pradit says. "Just a love story with beautiful actresses who could sing well. It was solely for entertainment, but my interest is whether we can use this kind of musical in a way that's more than just entertainment _ something that can tell a story about what's happening in society, something that can deliver a message."
Pradit decided to merge the musical form with what was happening in society in that time.
"The way of life and the love of people in that atmosphere. How did people love, what did people dream, and how did they face their problems during such a politically unstable time?"
"I have long been interested in the life of this woman," says Pradit of the inspiration for his main character Thanpuying Phoonsuk. "The more I read her story, the more I'm into it. There have been a lot of women who were behind what's going on in this country, but didn't get any mention, whether it's in plays, movies, or literature."
Although the plot and characters in his musical are very much influenced by real events, Pradit insists on labelling his work as fictional.
"It's inspired by, rather than based on," explains Pradit. "I want the freedom. If we say it's historical, the audience will be too focused on the facts. The drama gives us the chance to dream and imagine. It's fictional, but the more you watch, the truer it gets. I want the audience to see this as fiction and ask themselves what they get from it."
Each character is given a slightly modified new name. Thanpuying Phoonsuk is portrayed by Pavinee Samakkabutr who plays Ploen. Playing against her as an interrogating police officer is the director Pradit himself as Phra Pipit. Sukhumphan Thitinaphan plays Saipaan, inspired by is Thanpuying Phoonsuk's son who was imprisoned, while six other actors turn themselves into various different roles as the musical moves on.
"I don't want to talk about her life in a heroic or historical aspect," Pradit explains. "But as just an ordinary person who loves and dreams, and is romantic. After she got married to Pridi, her life changed dramatically. This musical is set during this specific time when she had to decide between going out of the country to find her husband, or stay in the country to help her son get out of prison."
With several popular traditional Thai melodies that have been passed over for many generations, Pradit added new lyrics to fit into the turn of events and the mood of each character. The music will be played live with piano, cello, metallophone and the familiar sound of the Thai flute or khlui.
2475 The Musical runs until Oct 28 at 8pm at Democrazy Theatre Studio. Tickets cost 550 baht. For reservations, call 087-990-7660.