After adapting Othello late last year, director Damkerng Thitapiyasak of New Theatre Society has moved on to tackle another major literary work, Herman Hesse's Siddhartha. Damkerng's much-praised adaptation of the Moor of Venice meant he had to deal with a tale of tragic jealousy, and now Hesse's work has spurred him into the realm of spiritual quest.
He recently talked to Life about the play, the process and the challenges as well as his hopes for it.
Why did you choose Siddhartha?
I read the novel more than 20 years ago. But recently, I've become interested in tackling the issues of criticism, and conventional concepts of teaching, and the story of Siddhartha came to mind.
How is your version different from the original?
This play is an original adaptation of the novel, not any stage version of it. In terms of the setting, this play is timeless, whereas the novel was set in India. Moreover, in this specific version, I associate the existentialist views of Hesse with the hippy movement of the 60s, and the audience will notice this in the style of acting as well as costumes.
What was the greatest challenge in adapting this play compared to the other plays that you have done?
To thoroughly understand the views and logic of Siddhartha and present his inner world onstage is the greatest challenge, as it is very different and at times opposed to other characters' common sense and ways of life. In terms of casting, it was not very different from the other productions I've done. Usually I know right away from the beginning who I want to recruit in each play. For this play in particular, the workshop with the actors in the beginning really helped in the development of the final script.
One of the novel's essential elements is the travelling to many places, especially the river. How are you going to manage to capture all that in such a limited space?
I adopted the concept of 'object theatre' as a tool for storytelling. I treat objects and props as humans and their belongings, places and symbols. I also explore the theory of semiotics through the theatricality, composition and movements and gestures of the characters. Those interested in reading signs in theatre should definitely come see this play. As for how I presented the river, it's a secret.
What do you think will be the appeal of this adaptation?
There's plenty: the storytelling, the modern stage adaptation from such a classic text, and the talented cast, for example. I can assure you that it will be a truly unique experience for all theatre-goers.
What do you hope the audience will get from this play?
Theatrical nirvana, perhaps! I also hope that the critics will leave me alone after watching it.
Siddhartha runs until June 24 at Democrazy Theatre Studio at 8pm every day (except Tuesday and Wednesday).
For more information and reservations, call 086-787-7155.
About the author
- Writer: Kaona Pongpipat