Best known for his improvisational plays Therapy and Adoption and his role in last year’s film Only God Forgives, Nophand Boonyai now introduces his new work Utopian Malady (Jan 10-13, 16-20). Coinciding with the political unease on the streets of Bangkok, the play follows three writers who are abducted to help rescue their country’s troubled prime minister from a crisis. Nophand chats with BK about the meaning of his new play and our present state of false reality.

How did you come up with the idea for this play?

A few years back I came across this idea about writers who are experts at writing things that are easy and stupid. I call them hamburger writers because what they produce has a similar quality to junk food. It’s easy to consume, commercial and pleasing, like a soap opera. Through the work of these creatives and spin doctors, we’re close to living in a world of pure manipulation. They create images out of nothing. It’s all make believe. One big example was the Thatcher government’s “Labor Isn’t Working” campaign in the UK. In the end, it was the Conservatives who caused the problems. That just sums up how a picture can take hold in the minds of those who are so willing to believe. And, shockingly, how people can believe in something based on nothing. These thoughts come together in this play within a simulated situation taking place in Thailand, where three writers are kidnapped to help fix a problem for the prime minister.

What can we read into the name Utopian Malady?

Utopia is a term that most people are familiar with. As we are all aware, though, there’s no such thing as a perfect world—but some of us refuse to accept that. Many of us want to live in a pleasant world, yet everyone’s definition of that is not the same. It’s a disease—transmittable or not, I’m not sure—where you find yourself losing sense of what is real and what is not because of all the images and ideas put forward by the media, news and spin doctors. The Bangkok Post recently published a headline citing Suthep’s offer of a “utopian” plan. That’s amusing. Politicians relentlessly try to sell the public a utopia that doesn’t exist.

Politics have been the same over the past 40-50 years. Things change, of course, but it’s the same old game.

What can we expect?

It’s a challenge to keep things interesting in this play. As everyone now consumes information and appreciates performances from around the world, you really need to offer something weird and fierce in order to gain attention. What Utopian Malady has to offer is a seat on a rollercoaster. You can feel the dynamic drive. It drives forward. You don’t know exactly when it’s going to turn or where you’re going. That’s what you get, a certain uncertainty.

So, what is the message it tries to deliver?

It is to question the world we see and what we perceive as the truth. I believe there’s always something or someone behind what we deem to be reality. It’s like we cannot really believe in anything anymore. Nothing is sacred. There’s this saying by [American physicist and philosopher] Victor J. Stenger: “Science flies you to the moon. Religion flies you into buildings.” This play emphasizes how people choose to hold onto ideas that have been proved false—to some people, science and reasoning mean nothing.


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