The Stage at Asiatique is home to the new interactive action musical, Muay Thai Live - The Legend Lives. And while it might sound like a touristy affair, the fact that it’s directed by Ekachai Uekrongtham, who helmed Beautiful Boxer and is the founding artistic director of ACTION Theater in Singapore, has us very excited.
You have worked in both film and theater. How do they differ?
I started off with stage plays, and even in those early days people would point out that there were cinematic elements in my work. With filmmaking, I tend to ask myself “what do I see?” and for plays it’s more “what do I hear?” With this show, we are using muay Thai as the fuel for creation. To me it’s not just a sport or martial art, but a philosophy. But, of course, it’s got lots of action. Also, it’s exciting because this newly-built theater comes with a 360-degree stage, so it’s not a one-dimensional projection.
Is it produced mainly for foreigners?
We are well aware that Asiatique’s target is foreigners. But I did come across many Thais who really immerse themselves in the show. For me muay Thai is a gem of art, but it needs to be presented with style. It’s about finding that balance between the traditional and the modern. It’s a hybrid in terms of both art and culture. Many asked me if I ever grow tired of muay Thai after working on so many projects. For me, there’s a charming conflict with muay Thai: it’s a unique blend of violence and beauty that really accommodates creativity.
We heard the play jumps between different time periods, too.
It’s similar to a superhero narrative. We start from the origin, what made these legends. I see these legendary muay Thai figures in colors, too. For example, I would picture Phra Chao Sua (Thai King during Ayutthaya period) who kicked off the golden era of muay Thai as gold in color. Boxing legend Nai Kanomtom, who is almost like a Thai gladiator, is red, as he represents the fight for freedom and patriotism. Then, there’s a modern day romance about a boyfriend who is obsessed with muay Thai. Each story will have different visual textures.
Having worked on many projects, what do you make of this production?
It’s different from anything I have done so far. It has intense elements of a martial arts show combined with the elements of musicals and action stunts. It’s challenging to work with live cinematography while trying to stay away from being gimmicky. It’s hyper-real; there’s a theatrical and fantastical feel to it, which matches the larger-than-life tale of legends and heroes. With the visuals and interactivity the audience will feel as if they are in the scene themselves. There’s not a single black out, everything just runs seamlessly.
What is your next project?
I’m currently filming Skin Trade with Tony Ja. It also stars Ron Perlman (Pacific Rim, Drive), Peter Weller and Dolph Lundgren. It’s shot in Canada and Thailand, and many of the action sequences are adapted from muay Thai moves. It should be released near year-end or early next year.
Muay Thai Live shows daily at 8pm. More details here.