Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Good night, Rain Dogs

One year ago:

It's dark and I'm in the Khlong Toei district, wandering over gleaming silver railway tracks, under a flyover, trying not to be hit by the taxis that shoot across this five-way junction. My friend Kevin's theatre collective is putting on a show in a bar called Rain Dogs, and the directions he gave me led to this knot of road and rail and pavement. I hate admitting I'm lost, but eventually I give in and call him up. He directs me to the furthest end of the junction from where I am, down a narrow strip of pavement fenced off from the foot of the flyover, lined with derelict shops, smashed windows, piles of swept rubbish. I must have gone wrong again... no, there's a light ahead, and a leering papier mache giant by a white wall.

The wall says RAIN DOGS. The bar crouches against the flyover, secretive, but it opens up like a friend's house when you step through the gateway. A garden with wooden chairs and tables to sit on, a dance room with wide open sides, ceramic tiled floor, turntables, the bar through another door in a low-lit room with mismatched armchairs and lamps. The actors are still having pre-show drinks/red bull; the night is hot and crackly. In the dance room, a long swathe of red cloth and wooden swings on knotted ropes hang from the ceiling in front of a screen with black-and-white circus imagery projected onto it. The show: Narkok - Burning Down the Big Top - a wordless grotesque movement-filled extravaganza mixing circus magic with the Buddhist conception of hell. The audience are all given white balloons that a cackling ringmaster snatches and bursts; clowns bounce together like blow-up dolls; a man bursts slick out of a barrel and dances on the dangling chains he climbs - later he stalks the crowd breathing fire and licking his gasoline lips. We are shunted from bar to dance room to outside and back in again, and it all ends with a girl in a rolling cage, fire, the baying crowd, the city night tangled and howling all around us. Walking back out at the end of the night, the midnight metropolis felt like an enormous big top itself.

That was my first visit to Rain Dogs. There were many more - an interactive art exhibition, where the artist taught us his craft and a poet insisted on writing verses on the back of every picture I did; screenings of odd films and documentaries; a late night walk on which I got lost until I found that junction and slipped down the side, to sit by the empty dance floor and leaf through a pamphlet of poems someone had left on the table; even regular club nights with DJs and dancing.

Last Saturday:

The place gutted of furniture, turntables atop a crate. Upstairs, on the balcony with friends, looking down on the garden which is more crowded than we've ever seen it. They've all come to wish the place farewell. After problems with neighbours and money the bar has closed. I'm deeply saddened by this - I was looking forwards to doing a post on here telling everyone to visit it. But the leaving party went on all that afternoon and deep into the night; it went out with a great bohemian roar. Here's hoping the people behind one of Bangkok's real gems start something equally wonderful in the future.

I leave you with a clip from Narok:

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