The story about Thailand's first queen from the Sukhothai era, Nang Sueang, was staged in 1968 and 2004 to celebrate Her Majesty Queen Sirikit's third and sixth cycles. The historical play returns this Saturday at Thailand Cultural Centre to mark HM the Queen's 80th birthday, as well as HM the King's 85th birthday.
From Left: Nang Sueang (Ausdaporn Siriwattanakul), Pho Khun Si Indrathit (Napassakorn Mitr-aim), Nang Sikorn Thevee (Kanokwan Intaraphat) and Pho Khun Bang Klang Tao (Thrisadee Sahawong).
ML Chulla Ngonroth has been involved in all three productions, first as an acting coach, then as director.
"The first production featured 500 performers. Although the 2013 Nang Sueang involves 300 performers, it is still a spectacle of Thai classical dance and music that reminds Thais of our roots," said ML Chulla, a retired political scientist who worked at the Office of the National Security Council.
"Historical plays promote patriotism and this helps reinforce national security," she said, linking her hobby to her work in civil service. ML Chulla also attended a Thai classical dance school and her passion for the performing arts led her to directing theatrical plays, especially a genre called duek dam bun.
"Nang Sueang is a lakorn duek dam bun, which was inspired by Western operas. Instead of a narration, such as in the masked dance khon, the actors sing and dance in Thai classical style to tell the story, and their interaction on stage makes for an engaging performance," she explained. "This production aims to preserve this theatre style as well as portray a part of Thai history and as much as possible _ we want the young generation to come and see it."
The history dates back to 1800 BE, or the 13th century AD, when what is now Thailand was composed of different city-states. Lavo (today known as Lop Buri) was under Khom rule, which expanded to nearby Sukhothai. Pho Khun Bang Klang Tao, ruler of Bangyang, and Pho Khun Pha Muang, ruler of Rad, battled the Khom army to free Sukhothai.
The victory led to the establishment of Sukhothai Kingdom under Pho Khun Bang Klang Tao as the first king of the Phra Ruang dynasty. He was crowned Pho Khun Si Indrathit. His wife, Nang Sueang, then became the first queen of the kingdom, and she gave birth to Pho Khun Ramkhamhaeng.
The Ramkhamhaeng stele confirms this with the inscription, "Por gu chue Si Indrathit mae gu chue Nang Sueang". (My father's name is Si Indrathit. My mother's name is Nang Sueang).
The 2013 version has TV stars, Thrisadee Sahawong portraying Pho Khun Pha Muang, Napassakorn Mitr-aim as Pho Khun Bang Klang Tao, and Ausdaporn Siriwattanakul as Nang Sueang. Two national artists, Pisamai Wilaisak and Setha Sirachaya also join them in depicting Thai history.
"I have never played a stage play nor a musical and my first one has me singing and dancing Thai classic music, which is really difficult and completely new to me," said Thrisadee. "I'm a beginner, like a kid learning how to walk or swim. I may not be able to perform beautifully like those trained in Thai classical singing and dancing, but I will give it my best because this historical play pays homage to HM the King and Queen, with its proceeds going to charity."
The cast are mostly dancers and students trained in Thai classical singing and dancing, and 81 of them will be performing the rabum dok bua (lotus dance), which is one of the highlights of the show. The number 81 comes from the age of HM the Queen this year.
From Jan 19-27, Nang Sueang will be staged at the Main Hall, Thailand Cultural Centre, Ratchadaphisek Road. Tickets cost 300-2,000 baht from Sala Chalermkrung Royal Theatre and Thai Ticket Major booths. Call 02-225-8757 or 02-262-3456.
The historical play portrays the cruel Khom ruler (Pacharapon Jantieng) as the bad guy.
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- Writer: Kanokporn Chanasongkram