Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Never Ending Loneliness in Bangkok

The Never Ending Loneliness for Two directed by Egle Simkeviciute Kulvelis
The Hop, Silom Bangkok. 21st June 2014

Lithuanian writer Sigitas Parulskis’s The Never Ending Loneliness for two was shown last weekend at The Hop, an interesting venue that usually functions as a dance studio on Silom Road, Bangkok - a city with pockets of vice, seedy streets, and upmarket massage joints. Where foreign men brand themselves heroes while saving burned souls, patching up torn-up dreams, trampled hopes. Where high society Thai love affairs flourish, precious daughters in sharp office suits and iPhones crushing candy or chasing cookies on the Mass Transit systems while messaging loved ones online. A city where promiscuity is considered normal and even encouraged with a few minor wives and major heartbreak along the way. Love is a strange concept in Bangkok, yet desire, greed, and gratification hangs above every street like the tangled electrical wiring betwixt concrete posts. Hedonism leaps from one room to the other like cats springing from building to building landing on perilous balconies, nine lives intact, terminal dermatitis and tangled, knotted tails. A city more befitting for the darkly disturbing Never Ending Loneliness for Two there may not be.
Five different couples each have their own scene, yet one may feel, owing to the chemistry between the two actors (Pattarasuda Anuman Rajadhon and James Laver) we are watching the same couple experiencing poignant stages of their relationship, and perhaps we are. What we percive may be more powerful than what is intended. Prize-winning Lithuanian poet, essayist and playwright Sigitas Parulskis has created a piece of literature dealing with universal issues; romance, sex, death of romance, violence, threat of violence and ultimately death. Kulvelis manages to shine a light on the darkness of it all with the help of a strong cast and interesting venue, the stage backed by a huge mirror, and spiral staircase leading perhaps to despair... 
We begin with a rekindled love affair of two former school children which transfigures into a simple tryst between a client and a prostitute in a hotel room. Hmmm. Sense that moment when one lies to oneself  and to the other with the impossible hope that they we are entering somebody else, a ghost, a memory, an ideal, equal. Rajadhon performs her role with enormous energy and emotional range, Laver responds with equal verve and strength. The technique here and throughout the production is the use of both inner dialogue and direct exchanges between the couple(s). This is perhaps a difficult technique to perform well and at times effective, at others distracting. The play runs at warp speed, the audience have little time to reflect on the effectiveness of narrative structure. It is the words and the delivery that count.
A couple meet on a train and following the exchange of a few words the inner dialogue is narrated by the pair. While attracted to one another they both realize that the shyness that attracts them to each other is the very obstacle that will keep them apart.   
The first flash of potential violence evolves as our next couple tussle with a prop that may or may not be a gun, and they escape unscathed apart from the physical and verbal bruises.
“Nobody would give a gun to a nut like you.” – She tells him.
A wife and husband have reached the point where each one knows what the other is thinking. The joy and familiarity of despair is all that keeps them together, trapped by what was once desirable now a cruel glue binding them to eternal indifference. There appears to be only one means of escape ..
“I asked her although I know the answer, communication becomes impossible, all the answers have been learned by now, and questions – questions are meant for oneself so as to push the answers further away.”

“A knife-edge is the straightest and surest way to intimacy,”
A fine line and one of many in this well-written, at times perhaps, over-written treatment. The language is thoughtful, careful, and rich. We discover the killing of his wife was but a wishful dream.   
The final scene. Tombstone Mirrors. Set in a cemetery where a man meets his first love, a woman married to another man:
“You wanted to be like the dead, especially dead for me, and I, had already been a ghost for a quite a while by then, hearing nothing, saying nothing, a shade wandering in the graveyard.”
This strongest scene extends the ambiguous themes explored throughout this dark literary stage production. We are left to wonder if the two characters have finally left the earth to reunite in heaven? Were all the couples connected in some unearthly way? The same couple? 

The audience likes to participate with a novel, a film or a play. One way the writer and director can do this is to leave us asking questions.
One answer to these questions is  that we are just like the Bangkok cat jumping from balcony to balcony and glimpsing through grime-stained windows and quietly watching the bizarre human relationships that percolate within the private loneliness couples compulsively cultivate around the world. Every minute. Each day.  
The Never Ending Loneliness for Two continues this weekend at Toot Yung Art Center, Bangkok. For more information and tickets visit their facebook page  HERE

No comments: