Traditional Thai Dance/Drama and more
An evening of theatrical entertainment at a Performing Arts Theatre in Bangkok is something every visitor to the city should definitely not miss out on. It could also be the perfect opportunity for you to see not only some of Thailand’s finest classical Khon Masked Dance-Drama productions but also some of the nation’s Modern Thai Dance Drama. Any one of these events will be worth investigating.
Below is a theatre guide I have prepared for you that will take you on a journey to several of the very best places in which to experience masked dance drama, traditional Thai dance, modern Thai dance and enchanting puppet performances.
To purchase your tickets for a performing arts theatre show you need only ask the concierge or receptionist at any one of the leading hotels. They can book tickets on your behalf. Alternatively, tickets can be purchased directly from the venues themselves. Tickets for major events can also be bought at Asia Books on Sukhumvit Road or at Robinson’s Department Store on Silom Road in Bangkok.
Sala Rim Naam Theatre
Modern Thai dance drama has yet to become a major player in local productions, though leading hotels in Thailand have been producing their own style of stage plays. One such modern dance drama you could attend is Sala Rim Naam at the Oriental Hotel in Bangkok. It’s a rather splendid dinner cum theatre. So while the Sala Rim Nan theatre is a magnificent custom-built facility offering a classy traditional Thai dance performance, it is also accompanied by a gourmet dinner.
The performances held at these venues are primarily for popular entertainment and include dramatic displays of soap operas and comedies as well as various forms of the classical Khon dance drama and translations from western plays. Dinner in the theatre can be a little pricey for the average tourist, but should you be able to afford the privilege, the event is sure to be a memorable one.
Thai Dinner and Dance at the Sala Rim Naam Restaurant in Bangkok
The name Mandarin Oriental Bangkok is synonymous with extraordinary service standards and a fabulous dining venue that tops the list in the Thai capital. The exquisite art of Thai dinner and dance at the hotel’s Sala Rim Naam really summarises perfection.
Dozens of temporary performing arts theatre stages liven up the oval grounds of Sanam Luang on the evenings of royal ceremonies setting the tone for one of the most atmospheric places in which to watch traditional dance performances.
But while these complete productions often last for several days, if you want to see abridged scenes of the Khon masked dance drama, then I strongly suggest you go to The National Theatre on Rachini Road which is near Sanam Luang.
Impressive productions by several skilled actors wearing sumptuous costumes and brilliantly crafted masks are staged indoors at the National Theatre on the last Friday, Saturday and Sunday of every month. Outdoor performances also take place every Friday, Saturday and Sunday between December and May.
Not only do the actors perform a shorter version of the Khon masked dance drama (which can comprise of several episodes from the Ramakien), modern Thai dance drama performances are also regularly staged here.
The entire Ramakien can take 720 hours to perform, possibly a little longer than even the most feverish theatregoer is prepared to endure.
Performing Arts Theatre – The Patravadi Theatre
If you want to go to a performing arts theatre where the story-line is a lot easier to follow from a non-Thai perspective then perhaps the Patravadi Theatre could be your best bet. This particular playhouse is one of Thailand’s leading performing arts venues that not only supports a number of art forms that are deeply rooted in traditional Thai dance but also works that embrace international elements.
This performing arts theatre was started by the acclaimed dancer, producer and director Patravadi Mejudhon who artfully fashions traditional and modern dance and drama together that’s uniquely inspiring to watch. The performances are very much based on classical stories. If you like you can also watch one of the shows while having dinner at the Studio 9 Art Space which is attached to the theatre.
Patravadi Theatre is situated in one of the most charming habitats in the city on Soi Wat Rakhang in the Thonburi district of Bangkok, alongside the Chao Phraya River and diagonally across from the Grand Palace Complex. Possibly the best way for you to get to the theatre is by river boat taxi. The theatre is open on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday night with the shows starting at around 7:00 pm.
Joe Louis Puppet Theatre
As for another mesmerising performing arts theatre in Bangkok, you need to look no further than Asiatique The Riverfront where among other things, you’ll find the Joe Louis Puppet Theatre. As far as captivating puppet performances go, you may not get a better class of classical and contemporary one such as this. The nightly shows here at 8:00 pm tell the epic stories from the Hindu, Ramakien.
It takes three puppeteers (all classically trained dancers) to manipulate a lovingly created puppet during a one hour show. The amazing thing is watching how this group of puppeteers have the ability to synchronise their movements in such complete and accurate harmony. I imagine it must boil down to total dedication and lots of practice. While you may not be spellbound by the 1,000 Baht entrance fee per person, your kids will be certainly be blown away by it all.
Sala Chalermkrung Royal Theatre
Built in 1933 by Rama VII, with the intention of screening talking pictures, the Sala Chalermkrung Royal Theatre is Thailand’s first theatre. Today it’s used for staging Khon (Thai masked dance) and live performances by singers and musicians. The theatre presents a new episode of the Khon-Masked dance entitled Hanuman Chankamhaeng, an excerpt from the Ramakien Story. This particular performance also celebrates the auspicious occasion of the 60th-anniversary celebrations of His Majesty the King’s accession to the throne.
Legend says that Hanuman the white monkey warrior must assist the good King Rama by fighting off the wicked King Tosakan. The performance depicts the life of Hanuman from when he was born until he becomes a valiant soldier and helps Rama win the battle against Tosakan. Having achieved this, Hanuman gets promoted.
This spectacular episode has sixty performers with elaborate costumes specially designed for this specific dance. It involves traditional singing, dancing, acting, acrobatics and music. The Sala Chalermkrung Royal Theatre is located on Charoen Krung Road in Chinatown. Open on Thursday and Friday at 7:30 pm.