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Wednesday, March 03, 2010

If truth be told

'The Ministry of Truth' is a theatre satire of the TV reality show 'Big Brother'

Published: 3/03/2010 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: Outlook

Although its grandest mission, Fringe Festival 2010, recently lowered its curtain last month, the renowned Patravadi Theatre continues to maintain its reputation as a space where international artists and locals meet. And this week, Tel-Aviv-born artist Nir de Volff will offer local audiences his directing skills in physical theatre with a live performance of The Ministry of Truth.

Hailing from Berlin, where he is now based, De Volff's company Total Brutal is widely known on the international performing art scene for its outrageous and aggressive choreography that combines physical expression and body contact to create intensity and strong energy for the characters on stage. For this production in Bangkok, De Volff said he has been in Thailand since December to create a workshop to search for local dancers capable of performing in his style.

''It has been almost three months since I arrived in Thailand. I first started by hosting a workshop with Thai dancers. The workshop was well accepted as we had 45 people registered,'' said De Volff.

To accompany two male performers from Israel, de Volff selected three performers though his workshop. However, his idea before landing in the City of Angels was to have a chance to include the character of a ladyboy in his work.

''At the end of the workshop, we had a talented male actor who works in a theatre in Bangkok, a female dancer and a male acrobatic dancer, together with the two Isrealis. Then we organised a meeting with ladyboys to search for a special one with a unique character, not one of those who is always out in clubs and only cares for Chanel,'' he said, laughing.

''Then, during the meeting with a few ladyboys, we found Tina. She is a graphic designer and she can act. So, she is not a typical ladyboy, in that sense. On the other hand, she is a normal human being.''

During an exclusive interview with Theerawat Thongmitr, or Tina, she revealed that she was slightly hesitant in the beginning, wondering if her character would turn out to portray ladyboys negatively.

''I find this chance a challenge, but at first I wasn't sure if I'd made the right choice. But the character in this show allowed me to be myself and I can say that it is not just another show with a katoey character,'' she explained.

Although the inspiration of the show derived from the TV reality show Big Brother, its title, The Ministry of Truth (changed from the working title ''On Air''), rather came from George Orwell's novel 1984, in which the term Big Brother also features as a character of a totalitarian government.

''I only take the style, the familiar setting from the Big Brother TV show, but the content of my work is the opposite. It is closer to the idea of war and peace in George Orwell's book,'' he said.

With performers from Thailand and Israel, the key messages in this piece are in dialogues that touch on controversial issues of freedom and war, gender and cultural clashes. Living under the same roof in The Ministry of Truth are six housemates trapped in voluntary incarceration, in which they share exchanges and express their emotions physically through choreographic movement and verbally through brain-tickling conversations.

''Metaphorically, the process of watching this show is like getting drunk then you get hit in your face. As for my own impression, I see the direction of art here is on the same nice level. So here I am offering a different kind of show, something real and open for an argument,'' De Volff concluded.

Through special coordination by the producer of the show, Jitti Chompee, who is also veteran dancer and choreographer, 'Outlook' was given a brief background of the project, as well as exclusive photographs during rehearsal and a sneak peak for the shows.

''I do believe that there are many gifted Thai dancers and artists out there. And what I can do is find a way to offer them inspirational performances from overseas, instead of the typical commercial shows,'' said Jitti, who received loud applause last year for his choreography for a contemporary dance performance of Carmen.

''Thanks to Goethe-Institut Bangkok and Patravadi Theatre, I could continue bringing artists to stage a good show for audiences. And this special work by De Volff is definitely not to be missed,'' Jitti added.

The Ministry of Truth’ will be staged at Patravadi Theatre from 6 to 8pm on March 5 and 6. Tickets are 400 and 200 baht (students), available at or on 02-833-5555. For modern dance enthusiasts, director Nir de Volff will hold a special contemporary dance workshop on March 6 from 2 to 5pm; visit for more information.

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