From Lakhon Rong to Lakhon Phleng: The Development of Thai Musical Theatre Through The Lens of Aesthetic Cosmopolitanism

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Abstract

This thesis examines the interplay of the local and global in lakhon phleng, also known as musical theatre, in Thailand through the lens of aesthetic cosmopolitanism. It constitutes the first systematic study on the contemporary scene of lakhon phleng, focusing on works from 1990 until 2021. In particular, this thesis argues that lakhon phleng is a product of an ongoing process of cultural hybridity, fusing elements from Thai aesthetics and decorum with those from external, largely Anglo-American, sources. As such, it has played an active role in the transnational flows of the musical theatre art form.

In doing so, it analyses two key contemporary practitioners in Thai commercial musical theatre, Patravadi Mejudhon and Takonkiet Virawan. The former’s musicals (active in the early 1990s) were mostly adapted from Thai classical literature and created in collaboration with international artists. The latter’s big-budget musicals from 1997 onwards were so commercially successful that they sparked national interest in the art form of lakhon phleng and growth in the number of musical productions, theatre companies, and training programmes in urban Thailand. Apart from these two practitioners, this thesis examines an artistic project titled Musical Lab organised by practitioners of small-scale musical theatre, in which the researcher was directly involved. This project brought to light the perspectives of musical theatre practitioners, both professional and amateurs, in the small-scale musical theatre as well as key social factors that enabled subjects’ mobility in the musical theatre community in Thailand.

Despite the focus on recent history, this thesis also contextualises the present via a chronological discussion of lakhon phleng in Thailand from the reign of King Rama V (1868- 1910), examining the prototype of the art form known as lakhon rong and its early development by key practitioners such as Prince Narathip and Phran Bun who significantly shaped the art form’s artistic styles and popularity.
Written by a Thai musical theatre performer trained in Thailand, Singapore, and Britain, the thesis offers unique insights into lakhon phleng. Personal experiences of training and performing facilitate a discussion of performative techniques, enabling the analysis of hybridity in terms of both performance form and approach. Formal and informal interviews, hitherto untranslated research materials written in Thai, and first-hand experiences derived from witnessing performances and being involved with small-scale theatre in Thailand are incorporated into the analysis to offer unique insights into the ever-growing dialogues between local Thai and global musical theatre.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationPh.D.
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Thorpe, Ashley, Supervisor
Award date1 Nov 2022
Publication statusUnpublished - Apr 2022

Keywords

  • Thailand
  • Musical theatre
  • Thai musical theatre
  • lakhon rong
  • lakhon phleng
  • lakhon nai
  • lakhon weatee
  • Takonkiet Virawan
  • Patravadi Mejudhon
  • Fahfun Production
  • Anglo-American musical theatre
  • Broadway
  • West End
  • Four Reigns/Si Phaen Din
  • Kukrit Pramoj
  • Aesthetic
  • Cosmopolitanism
  • Cultural hybridity
  • Aspirational
  • Southeast Asian Theatre
  • Contemporary Theatre
  • Bangkok
  • Western musical theatre
  • belting
  • Four Reigns The Musical
  • Phra Lo
  • Inao Choraka
  • Dance drama
  • Aspirational class
  • transational flows
  • transaesthetic
  • universal standard
  • modernisation
  • glocalisation
  • localisation
  • cultural imperialism
  • mimicry
  • performing arts

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