The Director, Barlett Sher, duscusses the context of "The King and I"
At the time of our play, French forces and the British East India Company had already begun to colonise Siam’s biggest foes. The British occupied Singapore, Penang, portions of the Malay Peninsula and over half of Burma. The French aggressively sought to lay claim to parts of Vietnam and Cambodia.
The King and his country are besieged: he will have to change very quickly and he is under great stress to change in order to protect his country and his people. He has to deal with the traditional values verses the modern values.
The King has to protect his course by finding out how to assimilate in the modernising world. The King is under almost unimaginable pressure to save his country from being colonised by Europe. A central issue in the play for the King is how to open up to Anna and the West without becoming colonised. So, we have warring traditional values versus industrialism and modernism.