PETA’s The Tempest Reimagined: A Review

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Photo from PETA Facebook page

It’s hard to imagine what Shakespeare has to do with Typhoon Yolanda, but at the capable hands of the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA), you get a seamlessly-told story that entertains and touches on social issues.

PETA’s The Tempest Reimagined is composed of two stories: one is of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the story of Prospero, a powerful sorcerer who conjures a storm to bring his usurping brother Antonio and King Alonso of Naples to the island where he is staying. By bringing them there, Prospero hopes to restore his daughter Miranda’s rightful place on the throne. And the other, that of Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan), considered as the strongest storm recorded at landfall, taking with it more than 6,000 lives.

The stories are different, but they are bound by the same theme: trying to survive after a life-changing typhoon. They are cleverly combined to make one cohesive narrative, which overlaps at times. And in moments when it seems like they are too far apart, Jaime the fisherman, the narrator, is there to smoothly toggle the stories back and forth.

Like the story, the emotions toggle between sad and funny. Sad, because your heart bleeds for the Yolanda survivors, and funny because of the occasional comic relief. Jaime the fisherman is hilarious, as are the survivors, who epitomize our trademark resiliency. Romance bloomed in these trying times, and Norbs Portales, who played Jaime, had to shush the kids in the audience who cheered for the new lovers.

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Besides Portales, I liked the elegant yet commanding presence of CB Garrucho as Prospero; the ethereal performances of Neomi Gonzales, Gio Gahol, and Gab Pangilinan as the air spirit Ariel; John Moran as the tormented Caliban; and Nor Domingo and Meann Espinosa as Papa Bons and Edith, two Yolanda survivors who showed nuanced and comedy in their performances.

You may ask, what does PETA know about relief efforts post-Yolanda? Within the year of the typhoon, The actors and theater workers were in Yolanda for their counseling program, community disaster risk reduction management, and psychosocial support. Yeyin dela Cruz, who essayed the role of Miranda in the play, spent two years there, while director Nona Sheppard flew to hear their stories first-hand. The result is a personal approach, one where some of the lines were lifted straight from the survivors.

It even took a jab at how the local government acted in the aftermath, and the mysterious case of the disappearing international aid. Subtle shade was also thrown referencing former president Ferdinand Marcos’ burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, which happened a few days before I watched.

The Tempest Reimagined is an important play because it gives a fresh face to the Yolanda tragedy. Some of us may have forgotten that it happened, or that many of our countrymen are still reeling from the devastation. This play gives us a look at how those in Tacloban tried desperately to recover and hang on to hope. Because as long as we can smile, there will always be hope.

PETA’s The Tempest Reimagined will be staged from November 11 to December 4, Wednesdays to Sundays, with 10am, 3pm, and 8pm shows at the PETA Theater Center located at No. 5 Eymard Drive, New Manila, Quezon City. For tickets and reservations, visit www.ticketworld.com.ph or call 891-9999.

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