Bangkok Stage Lights Up Those on Society’s Margins

Blind students from Thammik Witthaya School perform 'Blossom on the Moon.'
Blind students from Thammik Witthaya School perform 'Blossom on the Moon.'

BANGKOK — Ever want to stop the action in a story and offer solutions to the troubled characters?

This weekend, audiences will be able to jump into the action and stop a play to suggest solutions to its struggling or suffering characters, a model called forum theatre.

“Usually in a play, you’re not allowed to solve the character’s problems but sit and watch,” said Sornchai Chatwiriyachai of Malongdu Theatre. “But with forum theatre, audiences can go on stage and tell the characters how they can change their situation.”

Malongdu is one of several companies addressing marginalized members of society in this month’s Bangkok Theatre Festival being held at the Bangkok Art Culture Centre.

Malongdu, which usually performs in the streets, will stage a series of plays focusing on people with disabilities, the elderly in convalescent homes and the homeless. Sornchai said they are aimed to correct many cultural misunderstandings through forum theatre, which traces its roots back to Brazil.

On Nov. 18, they will perform “Ban-Bang-Care,” which depicts the problems with putting elderly people in special homes and “Humans of the Street,” which shows how people end up homeless. The next day on Nov. 19, “Will Show, Will Share,” will present a scenario on the problems faced by people with disabilities. All performances are in Thai and tickets are 250 baht each.

Other festival performances reveal similar underrepresented aspects of society.

Thais with disabilities are all but invisible on television and other media. On Sunday, see blind students from the Thammik Witthaya School perform “Blossom On the Moon.” The play uses metaphor to address living without sight. During the performance, audience members are told to close their eyes to understand how it feels to be blind as they listen to the story

Feel blowing air in the face, smell the scent of fresh flowers and feel water drops as a touching story unfolds about a flower that relies on others to complete its journey.

Blank Space Theatre presents “Man Gor Ja Pang Pang Noi” (Crimes of the Heart) this Saturday and Sunday, a comedy about a single, 45-year-old woman who decides she’s happy staying that way. Meanwhile, her sister has been bailed out after killing her politician husband in Khon Kaen, her mom enters a suicide pact with her unwilling cat, and her uncle strokes out. Tickets are 500 baht. Saturday’s showing is already sold-out. Performances are in Thai.

Cellist Saowakhon Muangkruan, a semi-finalist from Thailand’s Got Talent, will perform “Deadline” this weekend, which captures the feeling of trying to perform on deadline. She said her inspiration was from seeing a near-dead fly struggling to fly out of a vinegar glass. Yuthana “June” Kalambaheti, one half of experimental, cross-dressing duo Stylish Nonsense will also perform with Saowakhon. Tickets are 300 baht.

Later this month, check out mimes, puppets and other child-friendly favorites.

The festival’s full schedule is available online. Tickets are available at the venue or can be purchased in advance online. Click on the plays you want to see and be directed to pay via Paypal.

The Bangkok Theatre Festival runs until Nov. 19 at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, which can be reached by skywalk from BTS National Stadium.