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Brecht beats

Fringe Fest has Korean troupe interpreting German epic, along with shows from Greece and Japan

Brecht beats

Based on an epic poem by Bertolt Brecht, "The Return", performed by Korea's Theatre Company Nottle, axamines the absurdity of war and the meaning of life in a performance language that mixes pantomine, dance, stage acting and live music.

Three performances in two venues are on the programme this weekend for the Bangkok Fringe Festival at Patravadi Theatre.

First up on the mainstage, the Theatre in the Garden, is a physical theatre production entitled "The Return" by Korea's Theatre Company Nottle.

Founded in 1993, Nottle has been searching for a universal theatrical language through their experimental performances, spreading across a wide range of disciplines, such as voice, contemporary dance, mime, percussion. Their works are marked by spiritual insight, vibrant movement and a lot of imagination. Their goal is an accessible and sympathetic theatre and denies esoteric view or mysterious Orientalism. Wherever they visit, their audiences will be able to share a universal truth beyond any distinction.

Based on Bertolt Brecht's, German dramatist and one of the theatre icons of the last century, the epic poem "Legend of the Dead Soldier", "The Return" examines the absurdity of war and the meaning of life in a post-modern performance language that mixes pantomime, dance, stage acting, and live music. Acclaimed director Won Young-oh tells the story of a man who, after leading a mundane routine life, is suddenly caught up in a whirlwind of events that led him to a military band, embarking on a journey of no return.

When "The Return" was staged at the Adelaide Fringe Festival 2004, the company's tour manager Min K  Shin told local newspaper The Advertiser, "Brecht is big in Korea - he is very popular. In his works we see things similar to our conditions in Korea, as if he forecast some of our reality. There is a resemblance to our world nowadays. 'The Return' is based on an epic poem which is a legend of a dead soldier. But it is also about corrupt politicians and about war and peace."

Corrupt politicians? Well, then, Thai audiences will definitely empathise with this performance. This is, of course, in addition to the fact that Brecht has been influential in many works by local companies here, most notably the Crescent Moon Theatre.

Shin continued, "In South Korea there is war still going on. We Koreans don't worry about the war. We forget and live in a peaceful land, but the threat of war is always there."

Obviously, the situation is quite similar to ours here and now.

The Advertiser gave a highly favourable review of the Korean production, calling it "a rich reworking" of Brecht's poem and blessing it with four stars. "This impressive cast mix ghastly scenes with vivid moments of humour; snail's pace movement with frenetic dance", and "no doubt as shocking to South Koreans as Brecht intended for his native German World War I audiences."

After the intermission, Athens-based contemporary dance company Kinitiras Dance Spectacle will present "Clytemnestra Invisible". Inspired by the life of ancient Greece's Clytemnestra, this multi-disciplinary performance blends music, movement, video projections, speech as well as silence. One of the world's first femme fatales, she - much ahead of her time indeed - betrayed her husband Agamemnon, murdered him, and was in turn killed by her son. Director Antigony Gyra dedicates "Invisible" to all the women who remain silent rather than shout out.

For a more experimental mood and a glimpse at sheer creativity, arrive early on Saturday and Sunday - 6pm to be exact - and check out Wangnin Bunmei's "Wangnin Family" at Studio 1. Well, when it's from Japan and taglined "Invitation to a crazy performance!" - with an asterisk - we know this is going to be an hour of wild fun. And, in case you're concerned, there's still time after the show to grab some dinner before the performance on the main stage at 8pm.

Well known for their "vibrant, crazy, offbeat, and utterly unpredictable" nature, this Japanese troupe comprises music and dance artists who have been trained in various disciplines.

In certain moments of their performances, they, declining to be governed by any rules, may choose to embrace or reject their training. And in case you've been wondering, the troupe's name can be literally translated as "fools' civilisation". Well, they strongly believe that getting "crazy" is the way to re-connect us to our numbed humanity. Just look at

their promo photo to

confirm this.

In directors Kae Ishimoto and Daisuke Zenzai's "Wangnin Family" - an innovative synthesis of story, dance, butoh, theatre, live music and circus-like acts - a boy discovers another world under the family table, meets the "Wangnin", and finds out loads of lies and secrets of his family.


The Bangkok Fringe Festival features 'The Return' and 'Clytemnestra Invisible' at 8pm from tonight until Sunday in the Theatre in the Garden. Tickets are Bt600 (Bt300 for students). 'Wangnin Family' will be performed at 6pm tomorrow and Sunday in Patravadi's Studio 1. Tickets are Bt300 (Bt150 for students). Tickets can be purchased at all True shops, as well as at www.weloveshopping.com. For more information, call (02) 412 7287-8 or see www.patravaditheatre.com.


Pawit Mahasarinand  

The writer can be contacted at Pawit.m@chula.ac.th.

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