PPT really is sorry that it didn’t get to this post until the play it features had concluded its run. Even so, we consider the story worth re-telling, especially as many readers probably missed the story in the Bangkok Post.
The report explains that this year:
all of B-Floor Theatre’s productions have been a reaction to Article 112 cases and social sanctions against those who have, or are accused of having, less-than-glowing views of the Thai monarchy.”
The most recent:
Bang La Merd (My Wonderfully Smiling City; literally “area of violation”), written, directed and performed by Oranong Thaisriwong, is, thank heaven, the first to simply say that yes, we’re talking about the lese majeste law and the constant fear and possibility of landing in jail for doing or saying anything that touches up on the monarchy.
PPT thinks this is very brave. It is also an indication that things really have changed on lese majeste as the political struggle has progressed and as this reign is approaching its end.
But not so much has changed that allows full artistic expression:
Oranong can tell her “audience of her original intention to use the Royal Anthem in the show in a way that could possibly be considered illegal. She details her consultations with her friends who are legal experts and her discussions with other B-Floor members. The actress doesn’t say what she had planned to do with the song, and after much consideration, we’re going to have to deal with the fact that she has decided to censor herself. This is the first time, perhaps, that we’re seeing and hearing onstage the thoughts and decision-making process of a censored person and the admission of self-censorship.
In addition, as the reporter makes clear, the play is at a reasonably “safe” venue, at the Pridi Banomyong Institute, with the question:
I can’t help but wonder whether recent works by B-Floor would be more potent and effective if they were performed in spaces that are less safe, where they would be more likely to encounter audiences with more diverse political views. Perhaps it’s time for political theatre companies to start thinking about their own physical confinements.
Has that time arrived? Can lese majeste and other “sensitive” issues be broached more widely amongst the middle class and royalist haute bourgeoisie?