Throughout my life, I, born and live in Bangkok, have only experienced such performing art as Likay merely through a television screen, in some soap operas. And frankly, Likay was never my choice of entertainment. Why so traditional art when I have thousands other alternatives, which looks way cooler? But why not try once? Why does the show presently receive abundant international attention? I attended the show to answer my own questions, and then I was unexpectedly charmed by Likay.
The Len Likay Play Of My Life performance by Pradit Prasatthong, is seemingly an artist autobiography about his own Likay life – how it started, his ups and downs, his lessons learned, his decision to cease the path, and his return to the stage. What’s so special about the show is his means of communication which is so captivating. He elegantly presented his poetic talent and let the audiences participate in his show, as if they were having an elevated conversation, not just inspecting the show.
Likay was one of the rooted performing arts in Thailand which has been disappearing, as other kinds of entertainment are getting more overwhelming. Despite its being old-fashioned, Khun Pradit brings it to life again, with an adaptation in harmony with the evolving society, using modern innovations in his Likay storytelling. The challenge is the cross-cultural communication, and he definitely overcame it, by subtitling his play and singing partly in English, as well as his cordial facial expression. His play was truly fun, yet so emotional that I could feel his words, not just hear them.
Besides, he opened my eyes to what I have never noticed before – how this folk show is indeed the people’s play. He left a message that not only the people on stages play it, but so does audiences (particularly big fans like ‘Mae Yok’), who could as well decide if Likay lives or dies. Another thing I had just noticed is its charm. Rich and sweet voices, artful improvisation, graceful dancing, very Thai traditional music, glittering ornaments, heavy makeup – the skillful combination of these features makes the play one-of- a-kind.
The play is a part of Bangkok Theatre Festival Asia Focus (26 May – 4 Jun 2017 at Thong Lor Art Space, Sukhumvit 55), together with two other performances from Singapore and Cambodia. The brand new BTFAF is extended from the Bangkok Theatre Festival, aiming to be a platform of creating and showcasing creative works of Asian artists. The Bangkok Theatre Festival will take place once again at the end of this year, with a wide array of international performing arts.