“We did something that is not quite orthodox,” says Director Nonon Padilla.
What an understatement.
Produced by the College of St. Benilde’s Arts and Culture Cluster, the show is staged in the black box of their SDA Campus. Inside, beige garters arranged vertically act as backdrop while characters sport kabuki-inspired costume and make-up (set and costume by Gino Gonzales).
There’s no clear reason for the decidedly Japanese theme of the show, other than perhaps the minimalist nature of Asian culture makes for a more economical production. As a result, it’s very hard to pin down when and where this version transpires. From the dialogue, it’s still 17th century Europe. Looking at the staging, it’s as though the whole story happens in the middle of a bamboo forest.
The ‘Asian infusion’ doesn’t muddle the narrative quite like the frequent breaking of the fourth wall. It’s the running gag, and always deliberately timed to disrupt its most pivotal scenes. Suspension of disbelief only goes so far. Details like the use of urban noises as sound effects, or using Cling Wrap as costume for ghosts are already plenty off-putting, so when a murderer suddenly, bizarrely, breaks into a few lines of Sinatra’s “My Way”, it’s irretrievably jarring.
It’s almost like a descent. Just as Macbeth falls down a slippery slope of his own making, the play also gets that much crazier, culminating in a superfluous ending monologue that undermined its own blazing, wondrous, visual spectacle of an end scene.
Just as Makbet is beheaded, actor Joey Paras walks on stage in the middle of the death tableau to deliver what is essentially a lecture on Macbeth, theorizing on his religiosity, impact, and place in world history. He ends by delivering a few lines of 14th century Italian poet Dante Alighieri’s Inferno—in its original Italian, which nobody in the audience understands—that’s supposed explain Macbeth’s (creation of an 18th century English playwright) motivations.
But, the show is not without its merits. It was at its best when Mr. Padilla allows his cast to tell Shakespeare’s story.
National Artist Rolando S. Tinio’s impeccable translation captures the complicated, unique melody of Shakespeare’s heightened text. Irma Adlawan is on a league of her own as Senyora Makbet. George De Jesus III’s intense turn as the lead was at times even electrifying. Also noteworthy were actors Timothy Castillo as Malcolm and Kaila Ababao as Senyora Macduff. The entire cast also seemed at ease in delivering their lines with appropriate emotion, greatly helping audiences understand when the text turned esoteric.
Macbeth is the classic story of a man’s descent into tyranny and eventual destruction due to blind ambition and unchecked power. Considering today’s political climate, bringing it to the stage is kind of a no-brainer. Mr. Padilla’s version, however, is an offbeat, auteur turn that swamps over Shakespeare’s iconic story.
Photography by Erickson dela Cruz
You can buy tickets HERE.