Lessons from the trenches

Directors Sarut Komalittipong and Sasapin Siriwanij's have put together a play giving us the 101 on war

Kwin Bhichitkul, Wasu Wanrayangkoon and Thongchai Pimapunsri in a scene from WW101.

Through movements with a bit of monologue and dialogue, B-Floor's Sarut Komalittipong and Sasapin Siriwanij present their debut directorial production WW101 on the occasion of the 101st anniversary of the World War I. The idea began when the two directors travelled to Europe, visiting the Dachau concentration camp and realising how little they actually knew about the World Wars.

"The production is about both World War I and II," said Sasapin. "Seeing the actual site of the camp and absorbing all the details of war atrocities, I realised how little I as a person from Thailand really knew about the World Wars at all."

Entitled WW101, imitating the fundamental university course code, the performance has its source of inspiration from The Great War, "the start of it all", but essentially about wars and violence in general, including Thailand's political turmoil in recent years.

Sasapin talks more about the process of making the production and how they made such a distant history relevant to today.

How did the project begin?

After our travels around Europe, there were the PDRC protests in Thailand [in late 2013 to 2014]. During that time I got to work in the news and because the PDRC occupied many spots in the heart of the city, I was physically and mentally closer to the protest than at any other time. I heard and saw behaviour that at times was close to bursting into violent acts.

For example, just because people were with a group and had settled themselves somewhere on a pathway, they imagined they 'owned' the area and used this sense of ownership to bully passers-by. Things like this often erupt into violence, even when unnecessary and preventable. Seeds of violence are perhaps more present and innate than we realise.

How do you tackle such a complicated subject? 

We spent a lot of time narrowing down our ideas to specific messages that we want to communicate the most. That process went on for a long time before rehearsals began. Also for me personally, the challenge is how to relate it to contemporary lives. I wanted to be able to say why I wanted to talk about the World Wars now.

In the end, we decided that people can read about the specifics of wars if they wanted to and we didn't need to 'inform' anymore. So we tackled things like lives, conditions and states instead. Instead of giving answers, we're asking the audience to ask questions with what they might already know or not know.  

Tell us about the process of putting the act together.

Sarut and I did separate research according to our own areas of interest in wars and we occasionally met to put it together. There were some common ideas and then those that didn't intersect. Then we met the actors and asked them to discuss wars and violence from their own perspectives. In rehearsals, we started training physical skills based on the images we wanted on stage and then realising those images. Then new images came one after another. Ideas of props and design gradually came to add to the images we'd created.

What's the challenge in this?

How to turn abstract ideas into tangible images on stage. There could be a thousand ways to deliver one message, but how do we do it to make it an effective delivery that fits our B-Floor's aesthetics? Being physical performers ourselves really helped make it all fun and easy because as we looked at our performers, we knew what was happening in their bodies or what we wanted from them. 

How do you make the story relevant in today's context?

The one thing that's always the same in any war is its absurdity. Something I felt I've 'learned' from history is that we never learn from history.

War is simply unnecessary violence and destruction, always. I'm more interested in our humanistic standpoint towards atrocities, justice, and violence, than why or how our Siam took part in the war.

It's not about nationalism. It's about whether you can see a pattern of injustice or violence.

- WW101

begins this Sunday and will run until Aug 3 (except Fri and Sat) at Crescent Moon Space, Pridi Banomyong Institute, at 8pm (4pm on Sun). 
- Tickets cost 450 baht. 
- Call 089-167-4039.

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