Sunday, June 22, 2014

Nay Nai

A Theatreworks commission, Pichet Klunchun's 'Nay Nai' tells of the life, dreams and political play of gentlemen within the inner circle of Prince Vajiravudh's (who was Thailand's King Rama VI) royal court between 1910 to 1925. Not courtiers hor. As opposed to ladies-in-waiting, they're gentlemen-in-waiting. Pages (หุ้มแพร) or Gentlemen (สุภาพบุรุษ 'suphap burut'). Royal pages both senior and junior.

I expected a dance and was completely stunned. I'm still not sure I like it. Watched the trailer but didn't absorb that it's truly styled after a reality-show format with the stage set out as a ring, for pseudo pole dancing, sandbag punching and wrestling or doing the MMA-thingy imitating a Thai children's game something like 'Tag', called 'der-dee' (ตี่จับ). One thing- I wished they had explicitly warned on the use of strobe lights. I really dislike strobe lights and diun-diun club music, so definitely didn't welcome the opening and closing sequences.

While Pichet Klunchun is known for his contemporary interpretation of Thai classical dance style of 'Khon' (โขน), there was like, not really dance in this show. It's closer to dance-theatre than his earlier productions. Think 'Black and White' performed in Singapore a few years back. My jaw dropped as I watched four male performers grunt and shout like they were in a wrestling ring. That's not to say there weren't beautifully sculpted poses in the show. At some points, it was hilarious and there was a fair bit of laughter. After all, it's also the 'pages' grinning at themselves and at what they have to do to score a win. Yes, all the world's a stage, especially for royal pages back then, but this was wayyy literal. What a very brave experiment. Whether I like it or not is besides the point; am glad I saw it.

Are there messages within 'Nay Nai'? If you had watched it, and read Pichet's thoughts in the program brochure, discern what you will. Nobody wants to go into that. Not when it involves politics in a country that isn't mine. I'm not even going to hazard a guess what political commentaries are going on within the choreographer's mind. The Thai friends flew in for the shows, and of course I know their opinions, but I'm not sharing that. It's not in my place to do so.

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