Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Muay Thai Live - The Legend is Alive and Loud at Asiatique

Regular contributor John Borthwick gets sensory overload at the newest, loudest and most violent spectacular in Bangkok.

Fists of Fury meets Romeo and Juliet? Ong Bak VI meets Rambo IX? The King and I goes cage-fighting? Chose your analogy, the stunt action show Muay Thai Live – The Legend Lives, showing nightly at Bangkok’s Asiatique the Riverfront, is the biggest, loudest, bone-crunching-est spectacle in town.

Muay Thai Live sketches the development of Thai martial arts from the mists of Siamese time, through endless battles in the Ayutthaya period (against tactfully unnamed enemies, aka Burma), to street-fightin’ man stuff and finally to muay thai, the code.

It is loud, hugely energetic, skilfully choreographed and relentlessly violent. A cast of 18 stuntmen/fighters and one endangered damsel fly around the boxing-ring stage, shredding each others’ limbs and six-packed torsos, and smashing skulls like pumpkins. Mere instants after being pulverised, goodies and baddies alike bounce back to enjoy miracle reincarnations and rejoin the ding-dong/ting-tong fray or at least the next scene.

What is fascinating is that all this apparently spontaneous fury and sound is synched with split-second accuracy. When Villain A has his leg broken in three places and cork-screwed off by Good Guy B, the wince-making, crepitus grind that we almost viscerally experience is not (of course) the actual sound. It is stunt actors impeccably timing their smashes and kicks to the booming pre-recorded sound track. Not lip-sync but fist-sync, knee-sync. Seventy minutes of it — and not a beat is missed, not one maiming shot is mis-cued.

Machismo, Thaichismo, captions in four languages, homicidal pratfalls, a muay thai ladyboy, hoodie mafia, tear-jerking sentimentality and blokes with epic kung-fu names like Tiger King in Disguise and Warrior of Broken Swords ... it’s all there, in a spectacular that much resembles a computer game come to life. Or 1980s World Championship Wrestling gone tom yam gung, gone digital, gone crazy.

State-of-the-art light and sound technology are lavishly deployed here to truly pack a punch. Teenage boys will love it all (though, dudes, don’t attempt these stunts at home). Girlfriends and parents will indulge them. Muay Thai Live – The Legend Lives is a tale vividly told by director Ekachai Uekrongtham, full of sound and fury, and signifying ... well, as the Thais say: up to you.

Exit via the gift-shop, of course. No photography is allowed inside the theatre but later you can pose with the cast for a pic, your own Muay Thai and Me — The Selfie Lives moment.

Details: Reach Asiatique the Riverfront by free, 15-minute shuttle boat from Sathorn pier (adjacent to Saphan Taksin Skytrain station), or taxi along Charoenkrung Road.

Muay Thai Live is performed at 8 p.m each night at The Stage, Asiatique the Riverfront. Standard seats, 1,200 baht; premium seats, 1,500 baht. 
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