Sunday, October 4, 2009
Flaming puppets and a python converge in Carmen
"Victor" Kriengsak Silakong has done it again. Two years ago, he staged a likay (Thai folk opera) adaptation of Marivaux's The Island of Slaves. I wasn't familiar with the work, so as far as I was concerned, likay was the only way for that one.
But Carmen, an opera by Georges Bizet is more familiar. Until Victor gets ahold of it. The director of the World Film Festival of Bangkok, but trained in theatre, Victor lives to experiment with cultural cocktails.
For his version of Carmen, co-directed with choreographer Jitti Chompee, he's added southern Thailand's nang talung shadow puppets and that stagecraft's most famous character, the clown I Teng.
Played by the long-haired, androgynous dancer Kampanath Ruangkittivilas, both behind the shadow screen and live on stage, I Teng interposes himself and confuses the story of the fiery femme fatale Carmen and her young lover Don Jose (dancer Krittin Kiamatha). The crimson-clad gypsy woman is represented by an opera singer (Rappepron Pratum-Anon) and an explosive redheaded dancer (Meuanphun Ampunsang).
It's an amazing show and quite a heady mix. Though the orchestral music is canned, it's hard to not get excited when the opening strains of Bizet's score kicks in. Other parts on played on the piano, guitar, and, uniquely glass harp by Weeraphong Thaweesak.
At one point, a puppet -- I Teng's sidekick -- is lit on fire. Though not live on stage -- the action is picked up in one of many video projections done for the show by filmmaker Jakrawal Nilthamrong.
At another point, I Teng dances and sings with a live python that appears to be warmer toward the comic character than the coy Carmen is.
There's one more performance of Carmen at 7.30 tonight, October 4, at the Alliance Française Bangkok. Last night's show was fully booked, but if you hang out, you still might score a seat for a show, the likes of which probably won't be seen again.