It just gets weirder and weirder here. On thursday we were training in the park and a couple of Thai girls asked if we could pose for them with a “Welcome to Thailand” sign. Naturally we said yes, and Pyry hopped on my shoulders and we posed for them. They liked us and asked if they could show us nice places in BKK and film some material with us. We’ve been a bit bored lately so we were delighted for something new.
Friday came and we met them at the park to find out what it’s all about. War Rooms is a production company filming a pilot episode for their new TV-series where they show a different side of Thailand for tourists, and they wanted us to be their mannequins for it. We asked if we could also film, so both of us filmed a filming crew filming us 🙂
They took us to see a Chinese Opera and we got to visit the backstage. It wasn’t that much different from the ones we’re used to in Europe, except there were no walls or any of the fancy stuff like lights around mirrors. But the atmosphere was the same with all the make upping, sound checks and concentration. It felt cosy. Just opposite the stage was a big temple, and you could actually see the temple prayer room straight from the stage.
The show started at 6 p.m. and lasted for 1,5 hours, going through the same 15 min pattern over and over again. At a certain time of the pattern loads of fireworks, which almost deafened us, were set off inside the temple. But to help with thinking you’re going to be blown up every 15 minutes they had a nice habit of throwing betel nuts and leaves into the audience during some point of this pattern. The nuts and leaves made us feel relaxed and happy and the more we chewed the better the show. Ingenious, drug the audience before the show and it’s a sure hit!
In the middle of the performance we were taken to the temple to pray. This temple was specifically for people to pray for the success for their projects, so naturally we went to do just that. No cameras are allowed, but luckily the local filming crew managed an exception and filmed us with our own camera.
The atmosphere was amazing. Tens, if not hundreds of candles burning, ranging from small to humungous, lit up the hall with fireworks exploding and the thick smoke of incense embracing us. There were dragons swarming the altars and ‘incense’-smoking lions guarding the entrance. We could not have found a better place to pray for the success of our journey. The force was definitely strong with that one.
We were supposed to perform after the opera finished, but it wasn’t that easy. After the 1,5 hour show stopped we were getting ready to do our show. Luckily the atmosphere felt a little weird so we decided to wait for a bit. Soon the film crew came to us and said, ‘ok, now the prayer for the gods is over and the story is about to begin, it’s usually about 30 minutes’.
No wonder we didn’t quite understand what was going on. So from the end we jumped back to the beginning. After 1 hour and 30 minutes of this new performance the film crew asked if we were hungry. They said because there was an exceptional amount of audience that night, the show will last until 10 p.m. So we took a taxi and went to eat and came back for the finish.
Just after 10 o’clock the announcer apparently announced that this was the final scene. They stayed strong with their Peter Jackson mentality and made something that’s normally 30 minutes, into an over stretched spectacle that cannot be finished before the 3 hour mark. To our luck when a Chinaman does something, they do it well.
During the last scene at some point our performance was announced on a loud speaker so that nobody could hear the opera singing, but it didn’t seem to matter. The time was 10:53 p.m. when the final scene came to an end, and finally we got our chance.
By this time we had already had quite a few betel nuts and space wise we were very restricted. It was still great to perform for the performers and Juho even grabbed a brave boy from the audience and took him for a spin.
Then we continued for the after party and enjoyed our time with the filming crew. It was good to see that we share the same attitude towards creation and filming and it’s very relieving to notice that a long time professional is basically thinking and filming the exact same way we are.
It wasn’t until later that we realised how this Chinese Opera works. The Opera is hundreds of years old and everybody knows the plot because they see the same thing over and over again, with slight variation each time. This enables the audience to follow the play and eat and chat and go for walks in between, always returning to watch the rest of the opera. It is more of a communal meeting, with opera being the reason to bring people together, than something to go to without connecting with people around you.
It’s not easy, but the performers were amazing. They did their part full throttle and let the audience be at ease. No one was bothered about the kids playing and running around during the show. It was a lively occasion and maybe this idea of socialising during a performance might be an idea worth diving into.