To be insane, or not to be

Dreambox returns with a top-quality production titled Pinaikum Ying Vikoljarit

Theeranai Na Nongkhai performs Pinaikum Ying Vikoljarit. (Photo © Dreambox)

No great mind has ever existed without a touch of madness, as the old saying goes. And such madness and a great mind took the Bangkok theatre scene by storm in a new musical titled Pinaikum Ying Vikoljarit (A Will Of A Madwoman), despite its short run over the weekend.

Based on an original play of the same name staged 27 years ago by Dreambox, this newly-written one-woman musical features an actress belting out her pain and insanity, via haunting yet cheerful singing for two hours.

After a two-year Covid-19 crisis that forced theatrical stillness, the comeback of Dreambox's show is such a breath of fresh air, especially for die-hard Dreambox fans who braved cats-and-dogs rain in September to return to a stand-alone theatre house on Phetchaburi Road. It was not a disappointment thanks to top-quality production and performance from singer-actress Theeranai Na Nongkhai.

Impeccable vocalisation produced by the power-house vocalist was the key to the success of this one-woman show. There is no doubt about her singing talent and the delivery of her angelic voice from one scene to another.

But if her voice is a gem, it ironically posed some challenges to her characterisation. Her choice of spoken diction and crooning vocalisation led to incongruity in her character(s), varying from a stereotypical madwoman to a Disney-like princess who can talk to objects, and from a child playing with imaginary friends to a split-personality woman who sings her boon and bane in life.

It can be difficult to follow what character(s) she intended to portray, and it is not easy to distinguish between her character's conscious self and her lunatic self, or perhaps another alter ego, or a voice in her own mind, thereby failing to convince us to engage in the kismet of the character(s). But then again, aren't we experiencing the world of a madwoman?

Spoiler alert. A gimmick of this production lies in the title "one-woman musical". But on stage, some ensembles shed light to dim the fate of the main character. While its solo performance in the drama thriller staged in 1995 chose to have one actress who maintained the story's grimace and ambiguity that deeply engaged viewers, this musical opts for simplification and explanatory storytelling to please the eyes and the ears of viewers -- as a musical should do.

In Act 1, a madwoman narrates her mental conditions and it drags the thread of the self-absorbent storyline. Fortunately, Act 2 is filled with a more emotional joyride thanks to action-packed suspense to take vengeance.

In fact, the main plot loosely and helplessly reminded us of the cult classic What Happened To Baby Jane?, which was also adapted as a suspenseful drama in 1996 by Dreambox, aka Dass Entertainment then, under the title Risaya Payabat Khatakum (Jealousy, Vengeance, Murder). A psychological thriller and rivalry between two sisters may be the inspiration for this musical featuring one lunatic woman.

Creating well-versed lyrics is Dreambox's strength, but making an action-packed thriller might not be. In a few scenes where a madwoman takes revenge on her so-called rivals, it appeared to be convenient and effortless. Such uncomplicated actions hamper the ability to make this a real thriller musical such as Jekyll And Hyde, Sweeney Todd or other spooky musicals.

The stage design, including lighting and sets, was put to optimal use. The audience seated in the auditorium was expected to become a kind of voyeur, observing the narrative, and witnessing pains with the performance. The bottom line can be read that it is sometimes an appropriate response to reality to go insane.

The curtain for this musical may be closed but who knows whether a restage might be on its way? Until then, we can anticipate more screams of joy from Dreambox's madwoman and its fans.


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