The Sun is 4m in diameter and made of resin cement. It is movable _ not through any cosmic force, but with hydraulics. To stop the flaming chariot of the Sun, the monkey god Hanuman enlarges himself only to be burned. No, Hanuman was told, the Sun cannot be stopped. It can only be hidden, and that piece of simple wisdom is the key to this action-packed chapter of the Ramakien epic.
Scenes from the Support Foundation’s ‘Khon Performance: Episode Of Kumbhakarn And The Battle Of Mokasak’.
The annual khon (masked dance) by the Support Foundation under Her Majesty the Queen's royal patronage is back, and promises to be as dazzling as ever. This year's performance features the episode "Kumbhakarn And The Battle Of Mokasak", and will be on stage from Nov 24 to Dec 9 at Thailand Cultural Centre. The organiser, production team and performers promise a magnificent rendition with the beauty of singing, dancing, voiceovers, dialogue and costumes.
After the success of the episodes "Prommas" in 2007 and 2009, "Nang Loi" in 2010, "Suek Maiyarap" in 2011, and "Jong Tanon" last year, "Kumbhakarn And The Battle Of Mokasak" has been chosen by the Support Foundation to honour Her Majesty the Queen, who wishes to see a khon performance held on a yearly basis as part of the preservation of Thailand's most refined cultural art.
Thanpuying Charungjit Teekara, assistant to the Support Foundation's secretary-general and the chairwoman of the production committee, said: "Her Majesty the Queen realises the value and importance of cultural art, especially khon, which is a highly refined Thai art. Hence, Her Majesty demanded the creation of khon costumes and ornaments to be used in the royal performance in 2007 and in order to revive several Thai handicraft techniques, such as mask-making, embroidery, gold- and silver-work, ornament making, and marking-up techniques."
Like all previous shows, the dancing, music and singing this year are performed by leading artists from the Office of Music and Drama under the Ministry of Culture's Fine Arts Department, the Bunditpatanasilpa Institute, and the Bangkok College of Dramatic Arts in a very traditional way.
In addition, a number of top young dancers from other institutes nationwide have been recruited to play the leading roles.
This year's performance has several action scenes requiring the use of spectacular settings and special effects.
Sudsakorn Chaisem, the stage and equipment designer for the show, said: "We are doing a royal work, so the work has to be done in full scheme. This is a real benefit to the audience.
"At this moment, the stage is 85% complete. Of all seven scenes, some of them are new things I have never done before. Among them, Hanuman tries to stop the chariot of the Sun and later collects herbal plants for healing Phra Lak."
In these two scenes, the monkey warrior Hanuman has to puff himself up to obstruct the Sun, causing him to burn, with only his diamond fur remaining. The Sun then revives Hanuman so that he can tell him the story of Phra Lak being hit by the Mokasak spear.
The Sun tells Hanuman that he cannot be stopped, but can be hidden. When the audience sees the Sun flying through the air, there is a special technique required to create the sunlight. The Sun is 4m in diameter and made of resin, and movable with a hydraulic system.
A similar system is applied to the 4m-high Hanuman, who is made of foam wrapped with canvas fabric, and the 8m-high mountain in the scene where Hanuman picks herbal plants to heal Phra Lak.
The technique used for this entertaining scene looks fun. When the deity arrives at the mountain, the plants bounce up and down, forcing him to chase them. Hanuman enlarges himself and wraps his tail around the mountain. He finally succeeds. These two continuous scenes are very important. The gigantic Hanuman can move, twist his face and work his tail.
''The antidote-collecting scene is very exciting. As the curtain is up, two mountains will move apart, revealing [another] mountain, which moves up from beneath the stage. Hanuman will be seen climbing it in search of herbal plants, which are escaping. After that, Hanuman will become bigger in size,'' Sudsakorn said.
According to him, all the sets must look real and be in correct proportion because the production team wants to provide the opportunity for the audience to use their imagination freely.
Apart from a battle scene and witty acts performed by the monkey soldier Hanuman, another important scene is the Mokasak spear-sharpening ceremony at the pavilion of the god Brahma (Phra Promma Tibodee).
''This year, there are several really interesting sets, such as Kumbhakarn's ceremony venue, which is special for the backdrop painted with the lai kammalor motifs, inspired by the patterns on caskets for keeping dhamma manuscripts in the Ayutthaya and early Rattanakosin eras.
''The black background refers to evil, ghosts and demons, while the mountains and trees are painted gold, requiring expertise and special skills. This piece of art is painted with Thai techniques, which is delicate work,'' Sudsakorn added. In addition, Longka city's palace scene is newly built and inspired by the architecture and art of a number of royal mansions and temples.
The structure is similar to that of Amarintharavinijchai Throne Hall in the Grand Palace, Bangkok, while the paintings of stars on the ceilings are inspired by the art of the Ayutthaya era at Wat Sra Bua in Phetchaburi. The motifs of the Deva in the style of Ayutthaya art are copied from those on the walls of Dusit Maha Prasart Throne Hall.
With HM the Queen's love and support for the sophisticated art of khon performance, this part of our national heritage as well as the traditional art of making khon costumes and props have been preserved. The Support Foundation's ''Khon Performance: Episode Of Kumbhakarn And The Battle Of Mokasak'' is a must for traditional art enthusiasts and anyone wanting to learn more about Thai culture and art.
''Khon Performance: Episode
Of Kumbhakarn And The Battle Of Mokasak'' by the Support Foundation will be performed from Nov 24 to
Dec 9 at the Main Hall, Thailand
Tickets are available at Thai Ticket Major (www.thaiticketmajor.com) for 420, 620, 820, 1,020, and 1,520 baht. The special rate for students is 120 baht (no show on Mondays). Visit www.khonperformance.com for more.
A mythical story brought to life
Kumbhakarn, the younger brother and the viceroy of Longka city's devil king Thotsakan, is a giant who adheres to morality and justice and always keeps his promises.
After the death of his nephew, he requests Thotsakan to return Sita to her husband Phra Ram in order to prevent further battles and losses. However, Thotsakan, who is still infatuated with Sita, becomes enraged and instead orders Kumbhakarn to lead a battle against Phra Ram and his army. Kumbhakarn unwillingly agrees and flies to heaven to get a sacred spear called Mokasak deposited with god Brahma. As his mission is evil, the spear turns rusty. To sharpen it, Kumbhakarn must perform a ritual at Tubtim Mountain by a big river. He has a large pavilion built and orders his troops to protect it. In the meantime, Phiphek, the astrologer brother of Thotsakan who serves Phra Ram, suggests Phra Ram assign his monkey warriors Hanuman and Ongkot to disguise themselves as the rotten body of a dead dog being eaten by a crow and float down river to the venue.
As Kumbhakarn, who is very concerned with cleanliness, smells the terrible odour, he fails to concentrate and has to halt the spear sharpening ritual. Phra Ram assigns his younger brother Phra Lak to lead his troops to fight Kumbhakarn's army. Unfortunately, Phra Lak is hit by the holy spear and falls unconscious. As the Kumbhakarn-led troops cheerfully return to Longka, Hanuman tries in vain to remove the spear from Phra Lak's chest. Later, Phiphek advises the use of a sangkoranee trichawa plant and panjamahanathee water as an antidote. However, the antidote fails to cure Phra Lak if there is sunlight, so Hanuman volunteers to stop the Sun, but is burned to death. Later, the Sun brings Hanuman back to life to ask why he did such a thing, and then agrees to help by driving his chariot into a cloud. Then Hanuman goes to pick sangkoranee trichawa on a mountain and bring the sacred water from the city of Ayodhaya. Phiphek manages to mix the antidote to remove the spear and cure Phra Lak. After Phra Lak regains consciousness, he along with Phra Ram and his troops, return to their royal pavilion.
The set has been designed on a huge scale allowing the audience’s imagination to soar with the story.