traditional Thai dramatic art

What are the various forms of traditional Thai theater and dance?

Traditional Thai theatre and dance?

THe traditional Thai theatre and dance?

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What are the various forms of traditional Thai theatre and dance?

There are four forms of traditional Thai dramatic art.



Khon is a form of theater that uses episodes from the Ramakien, the long sacred epic about Rama, an incarnation of the god Vishnu. The Thais have a high regard for khon, not least the royal family, which draws inspiration from it for their own traditions. Khon is built around four types of characters: men, women, demons, and monkeys. Human characters have stylized make-up; all others are masked. The actors are always male. The principal characters of Khon are: Ram, who has a green face Sida, wife of Ram and incarnation of the goddess Lakhmi; Lak, younger brother of Ram, who wears shimmering costumes covered in gold. Hanuman, the white monkey, son of the God of the Wind, devoted to Ram, and a great seducer. Tosakan, the demon king, whose name means “ten faces”, represents the hydra-like nature of evil.

Lakhon (Lá-kawn)

Lakhon is a blend of theater, dance, and mime that draws its inspiration from the Ramakien and other traditional tales and from the life of Prince Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha) prior to his enlightenment. It has five different styles: -Lákawn na, which was originally performed exclusively by women within the precincts of the royal court. It consists solely of dance, with a narrating singer. Lákawn nawk also uses narration through song, while the rest of the action is expressed through dance, but the style is rougher and freer than lákhorn nal. The performers were originally only men.

-Lákawn châatri, which is faster-moving and less delicate in its movements than the preceding two forms, like Li-keh or Manohra. It uses performers of both sexes, mixes speech, song, and dance, and bears some relationship to western theater. -Lákawn kae bon, which lasts more than a week and requires several dozen performers and musicians performing in relays for six hours at a time.

-Lákawn pêwt, whose originality and popularity lie in the fact that it consists entirely of spoken text.


This is a send-up of Lakhon, using dramatic techniques and popular dances. The themes are drawn from ancient legends. Actors dressed in colorful costumes improvise lively commentaries on the original material, involving jokes, knockabout action, and satire, the whole being accompanied by a disconcerting use of gesture and body language.


Manohra, or Nora, is similar in style to Li-keh. It is a southern art form that uses only female performers. It is drawn from the Ramayana, the Indian equivalent of the Ramakien. Its story centers on the quest of a prince named Suthon for Manohra, a ginnaree (part woman, part bird), who has been kidnapped by a demon. The narration is sung and the action is danced, but the actors provoke deliberate interaction with the audience. It is therefore not unusual to see audience members with a taste for verbal repartee challenging the actors and each other during performances of this sort.



Traditional Thai dramatic Photo

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