Thai audiences have always responded to bonkers Japanese theatre artists with open arms, even audiences who are not regular theatre-goers. When Wangnin Bunmei first visited the Bangkok Fringe Festival a few years ago, the viewers at Patravadi Theatre adored their exuberant and noisy work. Their second trip to the country landed them in a Ratchaburi market, where the crowd, comprising of Bangkokians, the locals, and foreigners, went mad for their exuberance that seemed to echo the Thai-market atmosphere.
Last week, another young Japanese company, Faifai, brought an unusual creation, Shibahama, to the mixed-crowd at the Sonic club in Ekamai. Faifai's work may have the same rambunctious and hilarious quality as that of Wangnin Bunmei, but the former's experimental spirit exhibits both its lack of control and its willingness to push theatrical experience into uncomfortable zones.
In Shibahama, Faifai dismantled the centuries-old rakugu and fragmented an ancient tale into personal stories, and eventually, a communal sensuous experience. Rakugu is a form of entertainment in which a storyteller spins a yarn while sitting on a mat for the entire performance, with only a piece of paper and a fan as his stage companion. The storyteller performs dialogues by slightly shifting to his sides to indicate different characters. Originally told through rakugu, Shibahama is a tale of a drunk fishmonger, who one day finds a wallet and spends the money he finds in it on a feast. When he wakes up the next morning, his wife tells him that the money was only a dream and that they are now in debt as a result.
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