Shakespeare (and Dracula) in Jomtien

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Next year, on 23rd April to be precise, it will be exactly four hundred years since Shakespeare died.  If William Shakespeare had written only Hamlet and King Lear, he would probably still be regarded as England’s greatest writer.  But he wrote nearly forty immortal plays and his work has been translated into at least eighty languages – including Thai. 

The first Thai translations were made by King Vajiravudh (Rama VI) who was a prolific dramatist.  He studied at Britain’s Royal Military College at Sandhurst and later at the prestigious Christ Church, Oxford.  He was of course, fluent in English and in the early part of the twentieth century brought Shakespeare’s work to Thailand by translating three plays into the Thai language: The Merchant of Venice, As You Like It, and Romeo and Juliet.  He also adapted Othello into a Siamese style dance drama.

Daniel Foley interacts with a shockingly realistic ghost at Ben’s Theatre in Jomtien. (Photo/Ben Hansen)Daniel Foley interacts with a shockingly realistic ghost at Ben’s Theatre in Jomtien. (Photo/Ben Hansen)

Shakespeare brings magic to words because he had a remarkable insight into human nature and an extraordinary capacity for drama and description.  Some of this magic was brought to Jomtien last week when the acclaimed actor and Shakespearean specialist Daniel Foley presented a one-man show at Ben’s Theatre entitled Shakespeare for Dummies.

Daniel trained as an actor at The Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama but also studied drama in Indonesia and Japan.  Over the years he has directed over fifty theatre productions and won several prestigious awards for his directing skills.  He has also written a dozen or so plays himself, giving him valuable experience in all three areas of writing, directing and acting.

Daniel Foley was also one of the founders of Performance Exchange, an independent London-based theatre company that gives performances all over the world.  Formed in 1981, the company has already toured nearly forty countries and presented more than a hundred productions.  These have included not only the classics but also plays by Noel Coward, Harold Pinter and the American playwright Sam Shepard.  Their actors also offer workshops and master classes on all matters theatrical.

Shakespeare for Dummies involved a fair amount of audience participation and during the evening Daniel gave entertaining impressions of various actors.  He talked about the origins of the Scottish play (the name of which we dare not utter) and how actors in Elizabethan times spoke their lines.  The enthusiastic and appreciative audience at Ben’s Theatre was shown some of the techniques used in hand and sword fighting on the stage and there were fascinating excerpts from Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet and The Tempest.  At one point, a member of the audience was invited to play the role of the ghost of Hamlet’s father.  There was even a Shakespeare quiz to keep the audience on their toes.

The following day Daniel Foley returned to Ben’s Theatre with two other members of Performance Exchange for a theatrical version of Dracula, the well-known Gothic horror novel by the Irish author Bram Stoker, written in 1897.  Count Dracula (played by Daniel Foley) exudes a veneer of aristocratic charm but of course, everyone knows what he gets up to when the sun goes down.