nytheatre.com review by Cate Cammarata
July 25, 2012
Oxygen is a devised performance piece that explores movements originated from breathing. Against a background of multiple sheets of white painted plastic five actors create multiple narratives revolving around the importance of our air, our environment, and the implications that our environments bring upon our lives and our culture, completely through choreography. Using almost no spoken text at all, this innovative company from Thailand presents a visually striking statement equating the right to breathe pure air with the right to individual expression and freedom.
The final installment of a political trilogy created and directed by Teerawat Mulvilai, Oxygen sets up stark aesthetic contrasts in black and white. Reams of white plastic sheeting hang along the walls of the stage and move fluidly throughout the performance, giving the illusion that the very walls are "breathing" while the people on stage stagger and gasp for air. Clad in black and white, the five young actors—Dujdao Vadhanapakorn Boonyuai, Nana Dakin, Sasapin Siriwanij, Sarut Komalittipong, and Thanapol Virulhakul—move fluidly and precisely, creating beautifully synchronized movements that can degenerate into brutality, insanity and disease. No one can seemingly escape the toxic air that stifles freedom.
Despite any veiled political references, the choreography by Tanapol Virulhakul is full of visual delights. A woman twirls in plastic and suddenly creates a Spanish gown. A scrim of plastic sheeting is transformed into beautiful pagoda-like cells where hopeless people live and die alone to minimalist music and the sound of chickens. The beauty and dignity of the human person is suddenly suggested by a staging of Michaelangelo's "The Creation of Adam." Unexpected delights abound, as when the company turns into a living video game and tries to pop each other's balloons while electronic music taken directly from a Play Station is heard. A poignant moment near the end occurs when the cast comes out and "begs" individual audience members to set their bound hands free.
Production designer Pavinee Samakkabutr is inspiring as he creates a multitude of worlds out of nothing but sheets and sheets of painted white plastic, as are the sound design by Pornchanok Kanchanabanca and the projections by Taechit Jiropaskosol. B-floor Theatre speaks volumes about the right of individual expression versus political repression in the world today, all without actually speaking a word.