Thailand 24 Sep 2014 00:00
Lao Sa Jia Sung, an itinerant Thai-Chinese opera troupe, has been performing Teochew Opera, an slight variation of Chinese Opera, since the mid 60’s. Some of them are part of the troupe since the early beginnings of the company.
Traditional Chinese opera is one of the oldest performing arts in the world. The opera dates back to China's early history with its importance ramping up in the 13th century during the Song Dynasty. This ancient art combines drama, music, literature along with acrobatics and martial arts.
It is hardly seen on stage in Thailand in the 21st century, except during the Vegetarian Festival, the Chinese New Year and other holiday periods, always around Chinese temples and shrines. Modern forms of entertainment, like TV Soap Operas and the Internet, are widely established within Thai society, thus it is very difficult for traditional opera groups to attract new public. Despite the difficulties in gaining new audience and, therefore, funding, Chinese opera resists disappearing and keeps performing in the Southeast Asian country.
Lao Sa Jia Sung recently performed during the eleven days of the Vegetarian Festival at the Chinese Jing Sia Ma shrine in the heart of Bangkok's Chinatown. The team, consisting of about 30 members, delivers a delightful daily show for its mostly Thai-Chinese audience, combining literature, theatre and musical performance, with plenty of old fashioned entertainment. They spend most of the time together, working full time for the company.
Performers spend several hours a day applying makeup backstage and getting into character. "With our commitment with this performing art, there is no room for tiredness", one of the performers says. They need to be physically and mentally ready since each performance lasts for about five hours.
Now, they are on the road again. The troupe will now travel around Malaysia for the next six months. They will come back to Thailand after the Malaysian tour. Despite their difficulties, the members of Lao Sa Jia Sung show strong enthusiasm and fight to keep alive this ancestral form of Chinese art and entertainment. As one of the performers stresses, “It's our way of life.”