The National Theatre
The National Theatre is situated in the historical center of the city, not far from the National Museum and is one of the most famous theatrical platforms in the capital. Visitors to Bangkok have shown great interest in the opportunity to see classical Thai theater, which helps to better understand Thailand’s people’s multi-layer culture and its national traditions.
The National Theatre’s elegant light building, with its traditional Thai style roof and gilded cornices, was built in 1959 and is divided in three parts. The right wing houses a smaller theater, while the left one is home to the workshops of the technicians and scenic artists. Meanwhile the large hall reserved for theater’s key performances is located in the central part of the building and an open stage, where regular evening theatrical and musical events take place, is set up near to it.
The main attraction of the National Theatre is widely acknowledged as Khon; the classical Thai dance of masks, which is considered to be one of the most elegant and spectacular kinds of dramatic art. It is adapted from stories of the Ramakien, a Thai version of the Hindu epos. Khon’s dramas were traditionally played in front of the royal family and their guests, when performers numbered several thousands of dancers. Nowadays however, the number of participants has been reduced, owing mainly to the high cost of such performances. Khon is easily distinguishable from other shows as it is extraordinarily spectacular: the splendid decorations, richly decorated national costumes, as well as artists’ wigs and masks strike even casual observers with their beauty and variety.
In addition to this, one can see a later (modern) version of the Khon Theater – Lakhon. This is a costumed dance-drama staging of both classic and contemporary plays, the difference being that these are performed by actors without traditional masks. Perfect choreography, colorful costumes, live national music and skillful acting are the characteristic features of the Bangkok National Theatre that make it one of the leading theaters in Thailand.
However, the theater’s repertoire is not limited simply to traditional performances, as contemporary international plays are shown there as well.
Important! Traditional Thai performances are held at the National Theater only on certain days: the first Saturday and Sunday of each month, as well as on the last Friday.