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A collaboration between Korean and Thai theatre companies reflects on the horror of forcefully suppressing a society’s memories. 

Korea’s Theatre Momggol and Thailand’s B-Floor Theatre brought their talents together to produce “Something Missing,” a socially conscious physical theatre piece. The co-directors were Jong Yeon Yoon and Teerawat Mulvilai. The performers were Jeoung Eun Kim, Min Ki Kim, Jee Hyun Nho, Sarut Komalittipong, and Wasu Wanrayangkoon. The production was hosted by the Korean Cultural Centre and Thonglor Art Space, and supported by Korea Arts Management Service’s Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism.

The audience goes downstairs into a dark room, lit only by a few dim lights and lined on one side by several electric fans. On the other side is a wooden platform for audience members to sit on. 

Jeong Eun and Sarut’s ghoulish expressions

As the lights dimmed, Jeong Eun and Sarut distorted their faces into ghoulish expressions, slowly advancing toward us, right until we seemed to be swallowed in the black hollows of their mouths. Then suddenly Min Ki, Jee Hyun, and Wasu attacked them, violently clamping their hands over their mouths. 

The “dissident” ghouls, on the verge of speaking to us, were then assimilated into the rest of the mob, and any deviant from the coordinated movements of singing, dancing, and kneeling was pushed down a nearby toilet or forced into a group hug. Dissident movements spread, causing all but one of the actors to be stuffed into different spaces in the room—such as the space underneath the audience platform—to be out of sight, out of mind. 


Anyone trying to speak gets attacked, their mouths shut

It was then that the real horror of the show came. The forcefully disappeared men crawled out of their spaces, and I felt my hair stand up on end as Wasu crawled out from under my seat like the ghost from a horror film. Meanwhile Jeoung Eun, who had stuffed the other actors away, pushed herself into the opposite wall, struck with fear of what had resurfaced.

Then the fans were turned on, and thousands upon thousands of swirling paper squares were released into the air, spinning in the spotlight and darkness, as Jeoung Eun and Sarut yelled out the Korean folktale of the King with Donkey Ears. A king who had donkey ears was embarrassed about them, and always kept them hidden under his crown. Only the crown maker knew this secret, but one day he knew he could not take it to his grave, and told it to the bamboo forest. The wind carried the forest’s whispers throughout the entire kingdom, even after the forest was burned down by the angry king.

Fans along one side of the theatre space

The folktale underlines the idea that common knowledge, even whispered, will have a way of getting out, of crawling out from under your seat. Momggol and B-Floor’s collaboration point to the fact that both Korean and Thai society have secrets: secrets that wreck the secret keeper, that are violently suppressed, but in one way or another, have a way of resurfacing. 

Gaps in historical knowledge, avoided topics, and forcefully forgotten events are like ghosts at the beginning of a horror film series. You may think you’ve banished them, but they will come back to you, as surely as the wind will spread paper squares that have been released in front of a fan. 

“Something Missing” comes at a very crucial time in Thai political history. This piece reminds us that the current rampant suppression of alternative political viewpoints through "attitude adjustment," jail terms imposed by military courts, and "witch hunts" for Facebook posts deemed too offensive are a way of "stuffing" others into dark spaces under chairs and behind doors. Some way or another, one day or the next, those pushed out of sight and mind will have to come back to us. 

“Something Missing” ran from 12-14 November 2015 at Thonglor Art Space as part of the Low Fat Art Fest 2015, an international collaborative art festival running from 5-29 November and hosted by B-Floor, Thonglor Art Space, and Creative Industry. Check out their other productions on their Facebook page“Something Missing” will continue its run in Seoul from 17-22 November. 

Jeong Eun of Momggol Theatre
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