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Pattaya Daily News

30 October 2010 :: 15:10:21 pm 45037

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

Without being racist, it is generally accepted that there are national characteristics: the British are not famous for their love-making or their cricket teams; the French are not renowned for their courage when facing Germans. So it could be said that the Thais are not famed for their originality. They make great imitations but are rarely first with an idea. It came as no surprise, therefore, to find a web-site devoted to the Bard of Pattaya-on-Avon, a Mr Som Tham Zuhn.
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Here were to be found all the plays by England’s Man of the Millennium cunningly copied but given a Pattaya twist. They were grouped into the appropriate categories of Tragedies, Comedies, Histories, even Roman plays though none contained any recognisable Latin characters unless you count Biggus Dickus – itself a copy from Monty Python.

The first play listed was ‘Ham Lek’, a tragedy of small proportions. Set in Soi Denmark, it concerns our hero’s ruminations about a cruel fate that has cursed him with an undersized member. The curse of three follows him through-out his journey: three thousand baht, three minutes, three centimetres. (At one stage the hero was to have been Japanese but the playwright stuck with Danish.) Even when he finds true love, tragedy strikes. Ham Lek meets a ladyboy called Ofeelya whose surgeon might have had Ham Lek in mind at the time of her operation. Unfortunately she drowns during a tropical storm during which Soi Denmark habitually floods. Our last view of her is as she floats down the soi towards Beach road, garlanded with flowers. Pattaya police suspect suicide, but then they always do.

Som Tham attempts to politicize the tragedy of ‘Mac Beef’ by setting the play in the North, probably Chiang Mai. Originally he called his tragic hero Thak Beth but this proved unpopular with yellow-shirted theatre goers. He and his ambitious wife, Potted Beef, seek to overthrow the King so they can inherit the throne themselves. They are defeated finally by Mac Buff, a celebrated nudist and vegetarian who resists Mac Beef’s attempts to force burgers on the people of Thailand by selling franchises tied to 7-11 stores. Big Mac is eventually beheaded and his wife goes mad, sleepwalking, washing her hands whilst wearing a gauze face-mask.

Other plays labeled as tragedies are: ‘Curry-your-anus’, a Roman play; ‘O’fellow’, set in Boy’s Town and finally ‘King Beer’ a play unusually co-written with Leo Chang, a long-time Pattaya resident who is often to be spotted doing research in ‘Misty’s’.

I found the tragedies rather heavy reading for a day on a beach. Additionally when attempting to stimulate some conversation with girls in a bar, I found they identified far more with the lighter side of life than with those plays mentioned above.

As you would expect in Thailand there are many broad comedies such as ‘As You Lick It’, ‘Measure For Pleasure’ and my own favorite, ‘A Midsummer Night’s Wet Dream’. These feature many low-life characters such as Bottom who has a donkey’s appendage grafted on to him by the Gods and is destined to wander Soi Six looking for a girl who can accommodate him. Leonato has the opposite problem in ‘Much Ado About Nothing’.

By far the most popular comedy with the girls was ‘Twelfth Night’. They were quick to recognize the humour in the cross-dressing practiced by Orsino, Sebastian and Olivia. Their tender sympathies, however, were reserved for Sir Toby Belch, an English aristocrat on a fortnight’s holiday in Pattaya. All goes well for him on his first eleven nights but he experiences a problem common to many older men in a hot climate. Just when all seems lost he meets a gel called Kamagra and ‘All’s Well That Ends Well.’

Writer: Mike Bell

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