Thai Theatre – The Khon Mask Drama

Thai Theatre
In Thailand the traditional theatre is characterised by highly colourful story telling.

These photographs show the classical khon dance-drama troupes, enacting the Ramakein composed in the days of Rama II, in the first quarter of the 19th century, and based on the Indian classical saga, the Ramayana.

The Ramakein

The Ramakein from a painting at the Royal Palace

The Hanuman or White Monkey God

The Hanuman or White Monkey God

Originally most of the troupe were girls, as these complex dramas were performed in the inner court of the Royal Palace, where no men were allowed.

Today young men also take part, especially in such athletic roles as the Hanuman or white monkey god.

The khon, born in the Royal Palaces, and for centuries only performed there, is today largely confined to performances at the National Theatre in Bangkok.

The general public are mostly treated to performances of the lakhon, which uses no masks and is somewhat less stylized, and the likay which relies heavily on pitfalls and bawdy lyrics.

A prominent feature of almost every Thai fair the likay fills a role very much like the folk songs or dances of the west.

In the early evening family humour is the theme, but once the children are at home the tone becomes much more earthy, keeping the audience wide awake and laughing until well into the early hours of the morning.

Modern Thai humour is very much based on the likay and can be seen nightly on Thai television.


Thai Theatre Pictures – Click on the picture for the full image:

Thai Theatre

Thai Theatre

Thai Theatre

Early Khon Masks

Early Khon Masks, now museum pices

Khon Masks for the tourists


The tourist variety available in the shops


Grand Palace Bangkok

Grand Palace Bangkok


Ramayana Wall Paiting at Wat Phra Kaew,
Grand Palace Bangkok

Ramayana Wall Paiting at Wat Phra Kaew, Grand Palace Bangkok


The personality of the masked Khon Dancer is concealed by his elaborate jeweled costume and headdress.

Khon Dancer


The highlight of the temple fair is a likay performance. Attended by young and old, it features the orchestra in full view of the audience with children sitting close by for a better view of the action.

Khon Dancer



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