Stripping the background story and historical references from 2475 The Musical could turn it into Any-Year-From-2475-Up-To-Now The Musical. In essence, it's about a woman's love for her husband and son in a time of political upheaval, a family's strength and belief in righteousness when the two sides of the political divide clash, and rationality isn't allowed to play a part.
2475 The Musical is on at Democrazy Theatre Studio until Monday.
- Tickets cost 550baht.
Directed by Pradit Prasartthong of Anatta Theatre Troupe, this musical is inspired by the story of Thanpuying Phoonsuk Banomyong, when her husband Pridi Banomyong had to flee the country after a failed pro-democracy coup against Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram's dictatorship, and her son was imprisoned.
Although the story, the music, the language, the set and the costumes are very much of yesteryear, there's hardly an element in 2475 The Musical that doesn't resonate today, over 80 years since the Siamese Revolution back in 1932.
On one level, what's probably obvious to anyone is how entertaining this musical is. Even before the story starts, the sad, nostalgic tunes from piano, cello, metall-ophone and a flavour of traditional melodies from a Thai flute, or khlui, playing live is already a joy. The atmosphere in a small space like Democrazy Theatre Studio is something you can never feel when going to other big mainstream venues.
You are not simply watching the show, you are almost part of it as the actors are laughing and crying right in front of you while the musicians are playing literally by your side.
2475 The Musical boasts a strong plot and the kind of love explored in it is not the silly kind used to draw TV soap opera audiences in. The musical's description of itself a "retro love story in a revolutionary time" is a complete understatement because it's definitely not just about that. With the imprisoned son Saipaan (Sukhumphan Thitinaphan) as the main narrator, we get glimpses of his mother Ploen's (Pavinee Samakkabutr) life before now, from flashback scenes like her wedding or during the Siamese Revolution period, recreated with energising help from the six-person chorus ensemble who smoothly transform themselves into a variety of roles.
Then the story shifts back to the present when she has turned into a calm and strong-minded woman, fighting for her family who are torn apart. The scene which holds the central conflict and message of the whole musical is when she is interrogated by influential police officer Phra Pipit (Pradit Prasartthong), who represents the old order.
And this is when the musical can be perceived on another level _ this very scene gives it another dimension which differentiates it from other merely entertaining musicals.
Essentially, this scene is about how one party is wrong simply because he thinks differently while the other tries to get rid of that person because his ideas are undermining everything the opposite party has ever believed in.
Such a scene is inspired by what happened more than half-a-century ago yet the audience can feel that something like this is still happening every day. One message that is stressed repeatedly by Ploen and Saipaan is how a clash of thoughts and ideas should be something that's allowed in a democratic country.
And what we learn from the patience and understanding with which Ploen deals with every opposing force is probably one of the director's messages of how we should live in the present political climate.
The most important turn of plot is when Ploen is released and she has to decide between staying to help get her son out of prison or leaving the country to find her husband. And this is what 2475 The Musical is all about: a woman's love for her family that's tested by political unpredictability.
This results in a heart-rending scene when Ploen comes to say goodbye to her son and Saipaan kneels down to wai at his mother's feet. The music and the acting work together so well that it comes to a point where language is no longer a barrier. On the day that I went, there was a foreign mother and daughter who obviously didn't understand any of the lyrics but were quite transfixed by the music and physical language the actors employed.
On one front, this musical seems like a totally feminist work trying to underscore the often-overlooked power of women, that they are limited to only household matters but can also take a great part in something on a much bigger scale. But as the story proceeds, one realises that it's not focused either on male or female dominance, but the power of the family as a collective unit.
2475 The Musical starts out as a simple love story that is good entertainment, but ends up a true work of art that carries an important political message that reflects our society at present.