We have been to several academic events related to KCKP. They all have one thing in common: there is some serious academic stuff, and then there is some fun. I don’t think there is another Thai literary work where this rule holds true. One of such events marked the retirement of Acharn Choomsai Suwanchompu from a teaching career at Sipakorn University.
Acharn Choomsai Suwanchompu (ชุมสาย สุวรรณชมภู) is one of very few Thai academics who have written analytically about KCKP and its history. A chance meeting with her, which led to reading her MA thesis, alerted us to the fact that the poem had a past which needed to be understood. Her enthusiasm for the work is wonderful. She was very encouraging and constantly helpful to our project. We owe her a lot.
The title of her thesis, accepted at Silpakorn University in 1991, translates as “A comparative study of sepha KCKP, the Royal Wachirayan Library version and other versions.” She hunted down samut thai manuscripts in the archives, and showed how there were alternative versions of many scenes and passages. Reading this thesis started us on our attempt to track down the history of the poem more systematically.
Acharn Choomsai also analyzed various characters in KCKP, and made a wider study of the use of figures of speech in Thai literature.
On 18 September 2013, to mark her retirement, a KCKP-themed event was held at the Sirindhorn Anthropological Centre.
This event gathered together many of the old guard of Thai literary studies. Acharn Sakda Bannengphet, who wrote a thesis on KCKP in 1973, enthused about KCKP as a great work of realism with a capacity to inspire empathy like nothing else in Thai literature. Acharn Choomsai gave an intriguing talk about the Lao women in the tale. We talked about our Wat Ko edition, and the audience was very kind. Wo Winichaikun, a great popular novelist, scattered pearls during the coffee breaks.
The real fun then started. Acharn Choomsai’s students gave a performance of the great jealous quarrel between Wanthong and Laothong in the style of เพลงแ่อย phleng choi or เพลงทรงเครีอง, phleng song khrueang, singing in costume.
This genre starts out being mildly facetious and then ascends into splendid bawdiness. The quarrel scene in the text is full of sexual innuendo already, but the cast added a few more levels. In the picture here, try spotting which is the Silpakorn University lecturer, which is the Thammasat University lecturer, and which is the officer in the Thai army.
A video of the performance, along with downloads of the music, can be found here: http://muzic.asia/download/_P8h3ex4mqM/1 (but beware, I got a virus warning).