FAR from heaven
Ornanong Thaisriwong's latest performance is impressive to look at but does not pack the promised punch
The path to heaven, as paved by B-Floor Theatre at Democrazy Theatre Studio, is literally a dark, slippery and holey (no pun intended) one. Ornanong Thaisriwong's latest creation, Sawan Arcade, is a stunning spectacle. But its political message is not nearly as potent or affecting as her previous solo performance, Bang La Merd.
Sawan Arcade (sawan means "heaven") is designed to both dazzle and discomfit. When we enter, we cannot see what we're stepping on or know where we have to sit. Everyone has to feel their own way in the dark and eventually find a seat on a sea of tyres underneath a slippery fabric along the walls. We receive sharp flashes of light in our eyes for a few minutes before the room completely lights up to reveal a woman in a magnificent green-and-pink floral dress. So magnificent, in fact, that it covers the entire room and everyone is sitting on it.
To her credit, Ornanong does not let the dress dwarf her. She occupies it and brings it to life as if it were a puppet. She moves and speaks with admirable control and masterful comic timing. Everything about this celestial creature in the middle of the room is over-the-top and ridiculous, from her voice and gestures to her words, which make her sound like a religious quack. Her performance during the first half not only proves her talent as a physical-theatre performer, but evince her vocal versatility. Such interesting voice work is rare in B-Floor's productions, considering how much they deal with voice and silence.
Soon, Ornanong begins transforming the stage, pulling her skirt and enlisting the audience to help her unearth the tyres and rubber tubes from underneath her dress. She then removes the dress, disappears into the pile of tyres and tubes and emerges as an unremarkable creature, just like the rest of the audience. The room itself has become a dark wasteland of sorts.
For the rest of the performance, she keeps pointing skyward and asking two questions: "What is that flower?" and "Why?" She is always met with silence. And every time she tries to climb the mountain of tyres and tubes in search for an answer, she stumbles and struggles with those objects as if punished by the unseen and uncommunicative higher power.
Sawan Arcade is engaging, but Ornanong seems to have gone halfway with everything. The entire first half holds plump promise, but the role of the dress diminishes too quickly. The possibility of its return nags me for the rest of the show as the dress hangs limply in one corner. The second half repeats itself for minutes on end. And just when you think Ornanong is about to take us somewhere else, the show ends. Perhaps the artist wants us to feel the stark contrast between the two halves -- between being included in and excluded from the circle of power -- but they end up feeling like two jigsaw pieces that don't quite belong in the same puzzle.
As a result, Sawan Arcade's commentary on citizen rights to information -- and power -- only squeaks through.
continues until Saturday at 8pm at Democrazy Theatre Studio (Soi Saphan Khoo, MRT Lumphini, Exit 1). Tickets are 550 baht (500 baht for a minimum 24-hour advance payment and 480 baht for students). Call 094-494-5104 or visit www.facebook.com/Bfloor.theatre.group.