Stories of friendship

Photo 1: Vachara Vaewuthinand, left, and the play. Photo 2: Five friends, standing from left, Weerakaniz

Vachara Vaewuthinand's short-story collection "Vavoon", published under the pen name Pinda Posaya, hits the boards next month, as JSL Global Media returns to the theatre for the third time since 2011.

The book, which was published in 1982, is still popular with readers today and scored high ratings when it was adapted as a television sitcom in 1994. Now in its 20th reprinting, the collection is being turned into a stage play.

"I was once sounded out about transforming the short stories into a movie but I thought that was beyond my skills," says Vachara, who is the chief executive of JSL Global Media.

In 2011, JSL got back into theatre production after some 15 years, transforming the classic songs of Thailand's leading big band Suntharaporn into "Suntharaporn the Musical: Kwa Ja Rak Kan Dai". The show proved so successful that it was restaged in 2012 and earlier this year, each time with a slightly different plot, under the titles "Nueng Nai Duang Jai" and "Ther Thao Nan".

"The Suntharaporn Foundation gave us permission to use Khru Uea Sunthornsanan's songs and rearrange them in a modern style to celebrate his centenary. Because we fielded a young cast, it attracted a younger audience and we felt it was worth repeating," says Vachara, adding that he is planning to produce two stage plays a year.

"We'll be putting one another episode of 'Suntharaporn the Musical' in January," he says.

"Vavoon 2013" comes to the stage of M Theatre next month in an adaptation of the 22 short stories penned by Vachara while he was in his fourth year of architectural studies at Chulalongkorn University.

"I loved writing and Somjai Lorsamithikul, the first editor of Priew magazine, invited me to pen a column. I still remember the excitement I felt when my very first piece was published," Vachara says. "I didn't really know what to write about at first but quickly decided to relate the stories of my close friends and faculty of architecture classmates, playing up their characteristic traits, behaviour and habits."

Some of those friends are now big names in showbiz, among them songwriter Nitipong "Dee" Hornak and actor Sarunyu "Tua" Wongkrajang.

"The short stories were 80 per cent reality and 20 per cent imagination," Vachara adds. "Most of the architecture students were cheerful if unconventional. My classmate Ae, whose main hobby was sleeping, was the main character of my first piece, and in fact the whole story takes place while he was asleep."

That first piece won such good feedback that Vachara went on to write more, eventually having enough to compile for his first book.

While "Vavoon" comprises more than 10 characters, the play will focus on just five. As in JSL's other musicals, it brings a new generation of singers and actors to the stage, with Wanthongchai "Tol AF4" Intarawat playing Yuak, the character based on Nitipong, and Weerakaniz "Mac AF6" Kanwattanakul portraying Ton, who is based on Sarunyu.

Suwikrom "Per" Ammaranan is Jun (Prapas "Ji" Cholsaranon), Nontanun "Kacha AF8" Anchuleepradit plays Yoi (Watchara "Jiab" Parniem) and Konthorn "Hongtae" Taecholarn portrays Kid (Somchai "Coke" Premprapapong).

"We haven't selected the performers on the basis of their physical resemblance to the characters but on similarities in the way they comport themselves," Vachara explains.

"Tol is lighter skinned than Dee but shares his fascination with music while Per is as unconventional as Ji, something I picked up when I saw him in the movie 'Final Score'. Kacha appears quiet but has the same sense of humour as Jiab."

With a tagline of "Scenes from the Past but Jokes of Today", the young performers have been busy learning how to interpret the atmosphere and events of 30 years ago.

Watchara, who's the director, has taken the youngsters to spend time at the Faculty of Architecture and other places in the stories, instructing them in the "old" way of teasing the female students, playing sepak takraw, throwing a party and doing their course work.

"After studying his personality and speaking style, I think I can portray him reasonably well. We share the habit of making sarcastic remarks about everyone and everything," says Kacha. "Acting this character in the past isn't different from today; Yoi of the past is still Yoi of today."

Vachara is quick to stress that "Vavoon 2013" is not really a musical and that the songs merely help to make the play more colourful. "Suay Aoei" is a cheerful song used to both open and close the play, while "Khao Jai", penned by Nitipong, underlines the friendship between the five. Another song, "Ban Nai Fun", is used during the presentation of the dream home.

"Friendship is at the core of the story," says Vachara. "The hidden message is that we can become close friends for life even though we are very different."

Music and laughter

- "Vavoon 2013" is being staged at the M Theatre from September 13 to 29. Shows are on Fridays at 7.30pm and on Saturdays and Sundays at 2pm.

- Tickets cost Bt1,000 to Bt2,000. Call (02) 262 3456 or visit www.ThaiTicketMajor.com.

- For more information, check out "Vavoon 2013" on Facebook.

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