Thailand’s Splashing Theatre Company has established itself as one of the Kingdom’s most unique and daring drama troupes. Last month, a few weeks before their performance at the Bangkok Theatre Festival, we grabbed a quick word with Thongchai Pimapunsri, a director, playwright, award-winning actor and co-founder of the critically acclaimed theatre company
You are the director of, and a performer in, the troupe’s upcoming theatre piece What I Talk When I Talk About Grinding. Tell us about the show…
Well, it’s a one-hour movement performance – which just means that although spoken word is used, the main point of communication comes from the performers’ bodies. The show is inspired by the [idea that] if you want to be [an] expert in something, you have to spend at least 10,000 hours doing it. The performance is about two men and their quest for being the best. It also looks at the broader Thai social space and how our society is very competitive. The play asks questions about what it means to be the best and what it means to be an expert.
How do you view the actor-director relationship – is it difficult to flit between the two roles?
When I have directed in the past I can see in my mind what I want to achieve, but sometimes it’s tough to efficiently portray that to the actors. When I am simply a performer, it can be challenging to see the whole picture of the performance – what is going on as a whole production. Now, being both director and performer, I feel I can express my visions for the performance easier. This is the first time I’ve been in this situation, so it’s absolutely challenging but it’s also very, very, fun.
The majority of Splashing Theatre Company’s plays are contemporary works. Did the company make a conscious effort to move away from the traditional performances that dominate Thailand’s theatre scene?
We’re never aiming to be different or interesting, we just want to do the plays that we want to. I directed and was assistant playwright for our last production Teenage Wasteland, which was a sci-fi play inspired by the life and work of Chit Phumisak, who was a Thai poet, historian, philologist and author. He was executed by government officials for speaking his mind; we wanted to honour that. We like to do theatre that is important.
What’s the hook that gets a new theatre piece started for you? Is it an image, a theme, a character?
It’s actually usually a moral question or an interesting cause I’m thinking about. If there is an amazing story, like in Teenage Wasteland, then that’s the kind of thing that gets us thinking about a performance.
This article was published in the November edition of Southeast Asia Globe magazine. For full access, subscribe here.