I wake up to a pouring Chiang Dao, the rain water puddling through the mosquito screen, slightly. Green and dust has given away to brown and mud. The cold is bearable but the damp is surprisingly depressing. I wake with Chuan, but I go back to bed while he heads out to Tua’s place to start his rehearsal. Chuan, Pheung, and Sarut have to put together a performance by 7pm – they start as early as 9am to rehearse with their actors. The rest of us are given free time. I think, well, I can’t really do anything outdoors in this wet, so I might as well sleep. And sleep, I do till 10am.
When I wake, the wet is omnipresent.
With my black umbrella, I venture out to search for the Makhampom cafe. I run into Jae, and two of her friends, X and G. I introduce myself, and X jokes about giving me a Thai name, that had never occurred to me, and they offer โชค, which sounds like “Shou” (cho:hk). It means luck. I joke it could mean good luck and bad luck then! โชค ดี (cho:hk-di) would mean good luck. โชคร้าย (cho:kh raai) means bad luck. I think “Choke’d” is something I could live with.
The damp chokes today. There is nothing from Nature that can really kill me in Singapore. Here, the damp is insistent and casts a shadow over everything. I think I could die from this choking damp.
The Makhampom space is a village for artist-activists. We talk about theatre, the work they do, and the socio-political climate they work under. X and G work with primary school children, and are also circus artists. G used yoga to correct her bad back. X and G use theatre to correct the children – empower through confidence of skill. We talk about their country. We talk about justice. We talk about Art.
“Sleep is good, but you die when you wake.”
I’m moved by the work done by these artists. Have I been asleep without realising it?
Perhaps ignorance is better than apathy. Why is it that we artists say we push for change, for freedom? The artist’s freedom to remove his/her clothes in a manner of choice is a basic human right? The artist’s freedom to write a racist protagonist, is also then right? It is not right to label another’s beliefs as wrong, it is also not just to act on your belief to impinge on the other’s freedom? Democracy is crafty in that way because Justice and Democracy cannot be assumed as one.
A significant force in my career has been recognition. When I was younger, recognition gave me confidence, and work. In wily ways now, older and surer of myself, recognition is still alluring and important for opportunities to create. Recognition isn’t bad. I have earned trust, I have gained work, and through that work, I have lifted others. But it can’t be a goal.
Similarly, Theatre can be aesthetic, but when does it move from Art into entertainment, or propaganda? What then can I offer? A body to create, a space for discussing cultural issues, a mind to examine war and clashes, work that is intelligent, craft driven aesthetic, and most importantly compassionate to all sides, perhaps?
“The sleep they offer is is comfortable, warm and secure. But when you wake, you must die.”
Here is my thesis: theatre offers an experience of the human. Theatre that expounds on the human experience – the universal experience of time (past, present, future) and space; of body, breath, being, and everything in between; of the freedom to express, to be. Then, can theatre offer any war a salve, through that experience of the human. Awake.
Theatre must be Just. Just Theatre. Theatre, Just. Theatre. Just. Theatre.
It is 5pm. I make two skype appointments back to Singapore, and head back to my room where Chuan is taking the nap he promised himself. Time to leave Makhampom and go back to Tua’s.