Sorry for not writing an entry since Friday as the second half of the weekend I was, as they say here, mai sabai – “not healthy”. I’m going to attribute my illness to my niece, Ava. She had an ear infection at the end of my stay in Kansas City and as I noticed the first signs of an oncoming ear infection as I was flying home.
I tend to just try to soldier on through illnesses, relying on plenty of rest and drinking lots of water to get me back to health. Six days later, though, I was feeling much worse. Sunday morning I caved in and went to Bangkok Hospital to see a doctor.
After a thorough look at my ears, nose and throat (this was the ear, nose and throat clinic, after all) the doctor confirmed my suspicions: an infection of my left ear and the back of my sinuses. He prescribed a week’s worth of antibiotics, decongestant, and anti-mucileage medicine. The cost of the visit plus medicine: about US$80. Even with the falling dollar, that’s still a deal.
As of Monday morning I am feeling a bit better.
That doesn’t mean that the weekend was a total wash. In addition to a lot of house-related errands (look at water filters, purchase a fan and additional ceiling lights), we went to watch the Thai musical Banlangmek on Friday evening.
Ratchadalai Theatre at the Esplanade has installed LCD screens on either side of the stage, allowing them to do sub-titles for shows. This show had them in English, my only complaint being that they kept the letters so dim (presumably so as not to disturb the audience) that they were hard to read from the upper balcony. And I have good eyesight!
The story comes from a popular novel following the life of one woman as she goes from wealth and privilege to destitution and back again, all the while acting selfishly, using others for what she maintains is the benefit of her children. It isn’t until her old age, after the suicide of her youngest child whose love life she interfered with, that she finally comes to realize her actions as the selfishness they are and learns that true love comes in accepting others as they are.
There are a few catchy numbers in the show, although I’d be hard pressed to hum any of them right now. The Thai musical industry is growing in popularity, which is good, but the challenges are two-fold:
The first is that musicals written from original stories don’t find an audience. Instead, the theatre-going public wants familiar shows. The result is that most musicals are based on popular novels, and novels have story lines that are too complex for the musical theatre format (Les Miserables aside). Banlangmek was true to this fault and relied on a Greek chorus of singers to move the story line forward, even to the point of having to explain the conclusion of the story.
The second is that in order to get audiences (and perhaps because the ranks of musical theatre performers are so thin) the stars are often popular television and movie actors. Sadly, their singing skills are not always up to the demands of the stage. In this case, there was a direct correlation: the best-known performers were the least-talented singers. This included the main character, who was only able to hit her notes correctly when performing duets and having someone else to follow.
With the genre becoming more popular (evidenced by the building of the Ratchadalai Theatre, which opened earlier this year as the second stage in Khrungthep able to handle full-scale touring musicals), I’m hopeful that we’ll see more original musicals that emphasize the skills of talented stage performers rather than just pretty faces.
On the way out of the show, walking down the stairs, a young boy walking with his family stepped on the back of my feet several times. I looked back at him and then told Tawn what he was doing. The child then said to his mother, in Thai, “I know what the farang said! He said I was stepping on his feet!”
When we reached the base of the stairs, Tawn turned to the boy and said, in Thai, “Well, if you know what he said, why don’t you apologize to him?” So the boy, wai’ed me and apologized sheepishly.
This is along the lines with what what Ajarn Yai kept emphasizing with her students: the young people need to learn to be equally polite and respectful to farang, even if they don’t speak their language.