There is no doubt that Chiang Mai’s theatrical provocateurs Lanyim Theatre are carrying the creative torch in northern Thailand. The performance group has been tackling heavy subjects such as the Ukraine war, democracy in Thailand and LGBT rights in the form of public dance, dramatic acting and spoken word. Their shows regularly involve disturbing props such as fake blood, toy guns and religious satire. On Saturday 20th August, Lanyim performed at their favourite public location, Tha Pae Gate in full form.
25 year old Nontawat Machai, a Lanyim Theatre performer, said, “The show today talks about using military force to wage war on people. By using Buddhism to create righteousness in killing dissenters such as in Myanmar and Thailand.” Nontawat has been performing with Lanyim for six years and was dressed as a Buddhist monk, “The materials I used for the show are monks’ robes, sarongs, and a toy tank. These are the main materials for working with my body.” Passersby watched as Nontawat performed as a monk who controlled a toy tank spread on the ground at Tha Pae Gate.
Nontawat and the other Lanyim performers named the event ‘LIVING AND NONLIVING’. The event ran from 6:30pm to 8pm and featured over 12 artists. “This show is to communicate with everyone that we must not remain silent about killing all forms of people,” said Nontawat about the performance, “ Our show is Presented by Lanyim Theater, Exigent Performance Art Festival, and our artist’s friends from Germany, Romania, Russia, Myanmar, and Thailand.”
The event attracted many locals and tourists as they passed by the Gate. One performer broke a plastic gun and then urinated on it. Another performer wore a fake bomb on his head and detonated it hurling confeti into the air. Other performers taped messages to the gate wall and waved protest flags while wearing Anonymous masks. People passing by the acts filmed and photographed the graphic demonstration and stood in amazement.
As with almost every protest that occurs at Tha Pae gate, local police arrived. At around 7pm a police officer armed with a gun arrived on a bicycle to inspect the messages taped to the famous monument. Shortly after, a truck of police officers and a few motorcycle officers arrived to take photographs of the performers and their installations.
“I am afraid of the police,” said Nontawat about the constant police force, “because they are trying to arrest us who are different from the government. But I insist that what I do is not illegal and can be done in accordance with the constitution.”
The performances wound down around 8pm. Nontawat said about the future of events like ‘LIVING AND NONLIVING’, “We will continue to hold exigent performance art festivals in public places.”