- Phra Lor
After premiering in her Bangkok theatre in June 2009, Patravadi Medjudhon's Phra Lor was remounted for the tenth anniversary of her International Fringe Festival at her new theatre and performing arts center in Hua Hin, a seaside resort two hundred kilometers south of Bangkok favored by Thai royalty. The new site not only features a 320-seat theatre, uniquely designed housing, and studio space for visiting artists, but also a high school for the performing arts that will open to sixty students in May 2010 with a capacity for 360 students eventually.
Medjudhon has been in the forefront of adapting Thai classical literature into popular performance. Phra Lor, considered a prime example of lilit, a verse form full of fantasy and miracles, was dramatized by Prince Narathip in 1909 to demonstrate an integration of traditional Thai drama and Western drama with the Western division of scenes and actor-dancers speaking and singing their own lines rather than the lines being delivered by an external narrator as in traditional Thai genres. The tragic love story, which takes its title from the name of its male hero, is supposedly based on an historical event in the north of Thailand, and thus its dramatization has always included the dance, music, and costume styles of the northern Lanna people. Medjudhon updated the piece by interjecting a contemporary backstage story between a spoiled girl who wants to be an actress and the director, who fancies himself as a modern-day Phra Lor (Figure 1). [End Page 366]
The text of unknown authorship on which the story is based dates from the Ayudhaya period (1448-1483) and tells of two competitive kingdoms. Prince Lor's father, King of Mansuang, attacks and kills the neighboring king of Muang-Song. With the death of her husband, the queen of Muang-Song (Patravadi Medjudhon) vows revenge. Invoking magic forest spirits and a supernatural cock to lure Phra Lor into her palace, the queen also exploits her two granddaughters, Puen Kaew and Pang Thong (see Plate 7), who fall in love with the reputation of Phra Lor as the paragon of beauty and bravery. Seduced by a dream, the prince leaves his wife and mother to enter the enemy palace. When the two granddaughters and Phra Lor indulge their passion in a famous lovemaking scene, omitted by Prince Narathip but presented in this version (see Plate 8), the queen enters the bedroom to kill Phra Lor. The girls, unwilling to sacrifice him, choose to die with him. The queen herself is then executed by the reigning king, a son of the deceased ruler by a secondary wife.
Medjudhon fleshed out the erotic classic by employing traditional khon masked dance-drama, acrobatics, projections, song, and music that combined Thai and Western instrumentation. Phra Lor was portrayed by three performers—a khon dancer, a modern Lanna dancer, and a violinist who were all disguised with the same white mask and long-haired wig. At the first introduction to the prince, accompanied by the prolix poetic description of his physical and moral perfections, Anucha Sumaman danced the slow, refined khon with subtle masculine grace. When Phra Lor rises from his bed, disturbed by the dream that urges him to leave home, Krit Chaisinboon (Lanna dancer)
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takes off on his inexplicable journey. Throughout the tale, however, it is the extraordinary music of Oklahoman violinist Kyle Dillingham that provides the most spiritual aspect of the prince and a constant motif (Figure 2). Conceiving the prince as a violinist, Medjudhon held auditions for more than a year before encountering the young American whose specialty was country music. Dillingham's playing of Anant Narkkong's new compositions provided musical climaxes to the stage action and added a deeper emotional layer to the elegant but brief scenarios. Narkkong's music created an unusually pleasing combination of Thai and Western...