This week, Sipat Lawin Ensemble staged a production of Battalia Royale, a loose adaptation of Koushun Takami’s novel Battle Royale. The book (and the successful adaptation) is about a totalitarian Japanese state where a group of students are kidnapped and placed in an island, with the mission to kill everyone else and be the last one standing. Staged at the CCP Promenade from February 21-23, it had a very limited run of three performances. I watched its premiere show and was blown away by the complexity of it all.
Battalia Royale is a fresh and unconventional approach to theater, involving its audience as the plot unfolds. There are over five stages, and viewers must participate as the actors move from one area to another, quickly following them to keep abreast of the story. At one point, the viewers must pick between three simultaneous scenes, each with a different background but the same premise: kill or be killed.
And yes, it is bloody. In the last scene, one guy was shot and blood splattered on a Nursing student’s skirt.
I was a little confused at first, because there were two groups running off in different directions, but it was only because I was late. I eventually got the hang of things and the two groups melded into one, which made it difficult to watch if you aren’t quick-moving, thanks to the overwhelming turnout of the crowd. But I was impressed with the rotation of the scenes, which went like clockwork. All the ushers knew where to guide the massive crowd, and I even saw director JK Anicoche ushering a group.
The show is open to the public and is pay-what-you-can, which means that no one has an excuse to watch this great show. There will be another run this March 9-11, though I heard that tickets are already sold out as of yesterday. You may still check their Facebook page for updates in case they open more shows. This time, they’re staging it in an abandoned school in Cubao.
The actors were pretty good, too, and I recognized some people I knew, mostly from Dulaang Perpetual. The other actors are from Mapua Tekno Teatro, students from NU, Youtube performer Kevin Vitug, Marco Viana, and Bodjie Pascua, who played class adviser and game master. Pascua is best remembered as a cast member of child show Batibot. My favorite was this guy who played Julius. He had a certain angst that I found believable.
Music was provided by Teresa Barrozo (Zombadings, Shake, Rattle, and Roll 13: Rain, Rain, Go Away, and Kinatay) and Radioactive Sago Project. In fact, on its last day, Lourd de Veyra came to provide live vocals.
I was eager to watch the last performance on Thursday and see Lourd, but I came late again, and security was tighter. There was a line and they didn’t let everyone in at the same time so Nikko and I opted to go to SM Mall of Asia for dinner instead. We ate at Lugang Cafe, the new Chinese restaurant specializing in Taiwanese cuisine. They’re known for their xiao long bao, a Shanghainese dumpling dish with soup inside. I was impressed at its authenticity, having tried the dish when I went to Shanghai last summer. The interiors were opulent (which I loved) and the staff were accomodating beyond belief. The restaurant is almost perfect and I’m dying to go back and dine again. Being around the avant-garde furniture is already an experience in itself.
Capped the night by watching This Means War, a funny movie starring Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, and Tom Hardy about two best friend CIA agents who like the same girl and are trying to detract each other using their vast resources. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a bad rating, but I thought it was hilarious. And Tom Hardy….. my gosh. He was delicious. Lugang Cafe can serve him on a dish.