Lakhon Phanthang: Thai Traditional Theatre in the Modern World

Phakamas Jirajarupat

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis concerns the historical development of lakhon phanthang, a dance-drama form that emerged originally in Thailand as a commercial theatre under the patronage of royalty in the nineteenth century, was formulated as a traditional dance genre in the 1940s by the Fine Arts Department, modernised in the 1980s and is today taught in dance academies. Lakhon phanthang’s primary raison d’être is the representation of non-Thai ethnic groups, including Chinese, Burmese, Mons and Khake (Muslims) and it draws eclectically on the costumes, movement styles and ethnic stereotypes of these Others. This thesis examines transpositions and aesthetic shifts in the form over time with a focus on the modernisation, formalisation and traditionalisation, revival, survival and adaptation of lakhon phanthang, looking particularly at Krom Silapakorn’s theatre productions, the process of learning and teaching in higher education and theatre in rites of passage. The thesis analyses both aesthetic practices and various socio-cultural contexts, based on research on texts and documents, interviews and the author’s first-hand experiences as an audience member, dancer and instructor of lakhon phanthang. Analysis of lakhon phanthang in the modern world demonstrates that lakhon phanthang is a gateway for Thai theatre to develop traditional in modern society. The continuing survival of Thai traditional theatre requires not only the preservation of art forms as museum pieces but also making these art forms come alive for present-day audiences and engaging theatrical forms with contemporary society.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Cohen, Matthew, Supervisor
Thesis sponsors
Award date1 Feb 2015
Publication statusUnpublished - 2014


  • Lakhon Phanthang
  • Chao Phraya Mahintharasakdithamrong
  • Boosara Mahin
  • Seri Wangnaitham
  • The Prince's Theatre
  • The Siamese Theatre
  • Phuchanasibtid
  • Thai Hybrid Theatre
  • Phra Lor
  • Rachathirat
  • Krom Silapakorn
  • PAD, Suan Sunandha Rajabhat University
  • Thai Traditional Dance in the Death Ritual

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