23 August 2007

Vatzlav 2007 สัต(ว์)บุรุษสุดขอบโลก

Despite my mad schedule full of bureaucratic shit, I still managed to find some time to watch a play. Well, let me admit that thanks to my sacred job as a brainwasher, they gave me free tickets to watch quality plays once in a while.
This time they chose to do a remake of Slawomir Mrozek's Vatzlav (or สัต(ว์)บุรุษสุดขอบโลก in Thai). It's another quality political satire that is somehow timeless and so true. Despite its original setting in Poland, this reinterpretation didn't seem out of place at all in Thailand.

(If you don't know anything about Thailand, here are some useless facts: Thailand is a small yet weird country in South East Asia, currently under the control of the army who don't understand aesthetics. Thailand is also a magical country where politicians or presidents come and go as easily as rain and sunshine. Thailand also sees the greatest quantity of constitutions (I think so far we have 18 of them.) Also, national holidays come and go. The nearest example was this Monday! The government suddenly proclaimed that the 20th of August must become a national holiday, to the delight of students and bureaucrats like me. Well, I couldn't complain, could I?

Like their rendition of Animal Farm, this play is kindly contextualised by the director and some of the scripts have been tailor-made to suit the Thai public's tendency for quick jokes and good puns. Our exiled prime minister is of course inevitably linked to Count Bat himself, who lived on the blood of poor people (well, what a poignant metaphor). Thank god they didn't try to find a square-faced person to take this role, as in Animal Farm. Of course, poetic justice rules as Count Bat is brought to pay for his cruelty.

Quite touching is the figure of Oedipus, who tries to uphold the moral code, yet ends up being beaten and gang-raped in a carnivalesque ending by military-like tribal people (or tribe-like military people, if there's any difference). The usurpation of the whole island by the military at the end, I'm sure, would cause chest pain for many viewers.

What I gained from this play are as follows:
(1) desire is good -- the example is Countess Bat, who falls in love with a bear, of course as long as your desire doesn't violate other people's rights;
(2) desire is natural -- those of us who repudiate desire are terrible and cruel, lacking in good taste;
(3) desire is human -- without desire, you cannot be labelled human;
(4) desire is necessary -- it's normal for all of us to want something, to need something, because it's the human condition.
Hmmm ... I reckon we're treading into the sphere of freedom-loving, pro-West ideology once again.

This positive view of desire is crucial to the understanding of the play, as its central meaning rests on the conflict between justice and desire, as it were. Justine, the personified character of Justice, is represented as an innocent, beautiful yet idiotic woman. Due to her symbolism, she's portrayed to be too angelic, too clean to reside in this 'shitty' earth. The earth, by contrast, is rather the carnivalesque space full of activities, both benign and malign, but one sees the desire machine at work behind the 'progress' of humanity.

I wouldn't dare say more, otherwise you might blame me for spoiling the ending and stuff, but some part of the play do touch upon a very sensitive topic, especially the figure of Genius. I don't know whether it's intentional or perhaps it's my misunderstanding. But somehow signs and symbols can be reinterpreted, abused, and exploited to serve various ideologies.

This is once again a fragmentary review of the play, which I rather keep to myself. Those of you who read this review in secret please go to see the play for yourself. It's really thought-provoking and funny. (Most of the people laughed, especially towards the ending, but I on the other hand found it really deeply tragic and shocking -- as it's so true ... too true I think I'd rather stop here.

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