Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The Overture: The Puppet Show

It was a hit movie last year, was Thailand's pick for the Oscars and is a staple on the film-fest circuit.

Now it's a puppet show.

In a bid to stay relevant and draw audiences, the Joe Louis Puppet Theater in Bangkok is staging an adaptation of Ittisoontorn Vichailak's The Overture, which tells the life story of Sorn Silapabanleng, a Thai traditional musician from the late 1800s to the 1940s.

The best thing about The Overture was the grim, fire-eyed villian, portrayed by Narongrit Tosa-Nga, who is a virtuoso of the ranan-ek, or Thai xylophone. When he plays, I half expect storm clouds to roll in, just like they do in the movie. This weekend, for a benefit performance, Narongrit will reprise his role of the dark-clad Khun In, so bring your umbrellas.

For those in Bangkok, the Joe Louis Theatre is in the Suan Lum Night Bazaar. Performances are at 7.30pm.

It's quite a shift for the at-times troubled puppet troupe, which continues to stage shows despite a fire some years ago that ravaged their puppets and getting kicked out of their theater last year over a hassle with the rent payments.

Usually, they stage excerpts from the Ramayana, so The Overture is a bid to try and reach a bigger audience by tying themselves in with the hit film. It's a good match, since The Overture was so steeped in that Thai traditional culture that tourism officials are so keen to promote.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

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