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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Wattina in The Nation Newspaper about review dance theater

Watch the bubble
Published on March 12, 2010

ngual talk overshadows the universal language of dance, but 'Truth' is told
The Ministry of Truth" - with its commentary on the TV reality-show culture typified by "Big Brother" - was a triumph for Israeli choreographer Nir De Volff and Ido Portal and Elik Niv of his Berlin-based Total Brutal Dance Company.

All three have been in residence at Patravadi Theatre since late December thanks to the Goethe Institut Thailand and coordinator Jitti Chompee.

The final performance last Saturday of the show they created demonstrated just how much can be accomplished.

The Israeli director created a strong, six-member ensemble - his compatriots along with Thais Lerwit "On" Sungsit, Amata "June" Piyawanich, Rachanikara Kaewdee and Theerawat "Tina" Thongmitr.

De Volff knows how to use his performers to the fullest effect, in accordance with the message and the style of the performance, such as Leng's acrobatics and On's musical skills.

Assembled like "house guests" in a reality-show-style bubble - in this case the Ministry of Truth, complete with pool, ping-pong table and showers - the cast members used their real names and mocked how exhibitionistic truth is sold on television - as well as how much we love watching it.

The performance would have been wilder and had bigger appeal for the Bangkok audience if De Volff had done some research on "Academy Fantasia", which is quite different from "Big Brother".

Interestingly enough for a performance billed as dance theatre, the messages were conveyed mostly through bilingual dialogue and English narration, not physical movement, and herein lies a problem.

When the Thais were together, they spoke Thai, and when the Israelis shared a scene, they spoke English. The problem was that almost half the audience was expatriates who knew little Thai, while the Thai viewers weren't that strong in English.

Besides, English was the second language for all of the performers, so sometimes the lines weren't spoken realistically. Add to that a flawed sound system and many viewers were struggling to understand.

The result - attention being drawn to other performers elsewhere - reminded me of reality-TV producers using split screens to watch the action in different places simultaneously.

Otherwise, the audience waits until some conflict arose so they could witness some nifty and invigorating dance choreography, with vibrant live music by Suriya Phuengthongthai on an electric guitar in front of the stage.

This, again, mimicked viewers' anticipating the impromptu fights that break out on TV, especially among characters with opposite traits who are bound to collide in such a confined space.

The show's 55-minute running time also made it feel like a TV programme, and limited the time needed to get to know the characters.

Important issues, like the Thai sex industry and homosexuality, were touched upon, but never addressed in detail. Once again, it's like TV, not life - one of the reasons people these days have abbreviated attention spans. We're more interested in short-lived excitement and simulated truth than long-lasting meaning.

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